The weekly wash-up (October 18th)

The week that was in river and water news – October 18th, 2013

Sydney water users get a pat on the back   In the four years since water restrictions were lifted in Sydney, demand is much lower than it was before restrictions. Similarly, in south-eastern Queensland  there has been no significant increase in water use since restrictions were lifted. The results indicate that householders have embraced permanent water-wise rules.

Water supply at risk  Radical new rules for assessing large mining projects in NSW risk serious damage to Sydney’s drinking water supply, the Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) has warned.  A government proposal would increase the odds that mining projects are approved by making their economic benefit the “principal consideration” of the assessment process. The SCA claims damage to infrastructure, watercourses and swamps from longwall mining had already occurred.

Recycled water will become the norm  Australians are likely to have to rely on drinking recycled water, including treated sewage, to guarantee supply in coming decades. A peak independent research organisation – the Australian Academy of Technological Services and Engineering – has released a report that says recycling water is the best way to combat future droughts . Recycled water is better for the environment, uses less energy, requires lower capital and costs up to half as much to operate as the most valid alternative of desalination.

Government offers assurances on irrigation rights  The new Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment says the Government would not support any policy that causes detriment to communities or undermines the rights of irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin. Senator Birmingham says this week’s information sessions are just the beginning of the consultation process, but if the economic impacts of environmental flooding are too negative for a farmer or community, it won’t happen.

Turbid water in the Brisbane River during the 2011 floods. Photo by: Bjorn Bednarek

Turbid water in the Brisbane River during the 2011 floods. Photo by: Bjorn Bednarek

Summer storms threaten Brisbane water supply  In January 2013 the Mt Crosby Water Treatment Plant  was blocked by silt flowing down the Brisbane River. A report by Seqwater found the Water Treatment Plant will not be replaced in the short-term  and it must be shut-down when water turbidity reaches one-quarter of the levels reached in January 2013.  Recent upgrades to other water supply pipelines will only provide an additional 12 hours water supply.  Seqwater acknowledges longer-term solutions meant changes to land-use management in the Brisbane River catchment

Joyce wary of damming rivers for Top End farming  In an address to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences regional summit, the Federal Agriculture Minister said the Top End can increase its irrigated farming output without having to dam more tropical rivers. He said the focus for expansion of irrigated agriculture would likely be on  the expansion of existing schemes (such as the Ord River project from Western Australia), and use of aquifers, rather than damming rivers such as the Daly and the Roper.

Lake Argyle on the Ord River, WA is one of the existing irrigation schemes targeted for expansion. Photo courtesy of TRaCK.

Lake Argyle on the Ord River, WA is one of the existing irrigation schemes targeted for expansion. Photo courtesy of TRaCK.

Indigenous water reserve tap turned off   The Northern Territory Government says it will no longer include strategic Indigenous reserves in its water allocation plans for the future. The Water Resources minister justified this action in light of the relatively low level of use of water resources and the right of all Territorians, including Aboriginal Territorians … to seek water licences.

 

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