The weekly wash-up (September 6th)

The week that was in river and water news – September 6th, 2013

Massive sugar farm threatens  North Queensland farmers   Integrated Food and Energy Developments (IFED) plans to turn 50,000 hectares of dry grazing country into irrigated cropping land on the Einasleigh River in North Queensland.  IFED has estimated they’ll require 500,000 megalitres of water per year for the development. The Gulf Water Resources Operation Plan (WROP), currently restricts the amount of water that can be extracted from the river system to 10% of the total outflow. In theory this would leave no more water for other farming developments in the region – unless the scheduled review of the WROP makes more water available.

Chairman of IFED (and ex-Treasurer of Queensland ) Keith De Lacy says I-FED haven’t got a water allocation, and don’t expect to until they go through a thorough public approval process. A slew of consultants are already on the ground doing feasibility studies suggesting expectations are high for both public approval and water allocation.

The Einasleigh River upstream of a proposed weir site to irrigate sugarcane. Photo: G. McGregor.

The Einasleigh River upstream of a proposed weir site to irrigate sugarcane. Photo: G. McGregor.

Japan to spend $500 million on Fukushima  Japan will spend up to $500 million of public funds to tackle radioactive water leaks at Fukushima. The action plan includes a scheme to freeze soil around reactor buildings to stop groundwater from entering.  Some radioactive water will have to be released into the sea because it could not be stored in temporary tanks at Fukushima permanently.   Neighbouring countries and local fishermen have expressed concern at the mooted release from the plant, where contaminated water has already escaped into sea.  The clean-up has been hit by a series of mishaps that have cast doubt on the utility’s ability to contain the world’s worst atomic disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

Upper Swan River struggling from lack of oxygen  A Murdoch University survey of fish communities across the Swan-Canning Estuary shows that while nearshore waters are in “good to fair” condition, the upper Swan and Canning estuaries are struggling from lack of oxygen. A recovery in river health is attributed to the installation of oxygenation plants in 2011. The upper Swan fared badly because the area was recovering after unusual summer rains fuelled algae, which removed oxygen from the system and killed fish.

One Nation water claims get “pants on fire” rating by Politifact  Pauline Hanson has claimed “… they (the UN) will force the man on the land to fence his creeks and rivers on his property and any dams put on your property you can only capture 10% of the water the rest of it must flow to the rivers and creeks and they will tax you on that.” Hanson, who, due to preference deals, is reportedly a good chance to secure a Senate spot, sees UN Agenda 21 as a particular threat to Australian farmers. The fact-checking website Politifact couldn’t find evidence of a blanket requirement for landholders to fence waterways, although it possible some landholders have been told to do so in certain cases. The suggestion that a UN agreement might have forced this upon Australia is farfetched, and somewhat irrelevant to federal politics.  Their truth rating: Pants on Fire.

Mining could cause irreparable damage to Sydney’s water supply    Illawarra Coal operates a longwall coal mine under the streams and upland swamps that drain into Lake Cordeaux, which in turn supplies 4.5 million people in Sydney. An expert claims extensive cracking to stream-beds and other data demonstrates water loss beyond the “negligible impacts” specified as acceptable in their operating licence.  Swamps are draining and the water lost from the surface makes its way through a system of cracks to the mine and is completely lost.

Hunter water supply options  New dams remain off the table but the Hunter could get a groundwater supply, an emergency desalination plant or use water that flows into Lake Macquarie mines under water plan options. Six combinations of options – referred to as portfolios – would combat a drought. Their is strong community support for introducing water wise rules, which have been used successfully in Sydney and the Central Coast, water efficiency programs and drought restrictions. Workshops will be held next week and the discussion paper will be published online.

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