The weekly wash-up (October 28th)

The week that was in river and water news – October 28th, 2013

Continuing bad news from my home state Queensland – where reducing environmental regulation is hailed as a victory by the environment minister and jobs are axed in the face of continuing evidence of environmental degradation.

Bottled water sales outpacing soft drink   By the end of this decade, if not sooner, sales of bottled water are expected to surpass those of carbonated soft drinks. Plain bottled waters are little more than purified tap water with a sprinkle of minerals tossed in, which makes the business one of producing bottles and filling them. The reduction in price as well as continuing concern about obesity and related diseases are driving the trend.

Arsenic contamination found in Vietnam’s water  A study in Vietnam has revealed that massive over-pumping of groundwater sources to meet surging demand is drawing arsenic into the country’s village wells. The research, published in the journal Nature, shows that a clean aquifer can become contaminated when water suppliers accelerate their flows of groundwater which contains naturally high levels of the deadly poison arsenic. The problem is a phenomenon of the Red River Delta – one of the most densely populated areas in the world, with about 17 to 20 million people.

We are killing Moreton Bay  With the release of the 13th annual Healthy Waterways River Health findings, Professor Olley said Moreton Bay would be a completely changed marine ecosystem in 20 years if nothing changed. Mud is now flowing out to Moreton Bay 10 times as fast as it did before Europeans settled in the region 120 years ago. “We need to put in place ways of improving the water quality coming out of the stormwater system and monitoring what is coming off construction sites,” he said.

Brisbane metropolitan area and Moreton Bay. Image from: NASA

Brisbane metropolitan area and Moreton Bay. Image from: NASA

Environment minister defends redundancies  The Queensland Environment Minister has defended his department’s decision to make 30 water policy, koala research and conservation workers redundant. The responsibilities for those jobs would be shifted on to local councils and community groups.

Qld CSG Water to be used for drinking   The Queensland deputy premier says water created as a by-product of coal seam gas exploration is a “resource” that could be used for drinking and irrigating farmland.  A new water treatment plant in Chinchilla in the state’s south west will desalinate millions of litres of salt water released from coal seam gas extraction every day.  Ninety seven per cent of the water from the plant is to be reused and 20 farmers have signed up to receive the water. The remaining 3% will be evaporated and millions of tonnes of salt crystal stored in landfill, but commercial applications for the salt are also being investigated.

Qld Environment Department hails cutting of green tape The Queensland Government has passed the  Nature Conservation (Protected Plants) and Other Legislation Amendment Bill 2013. Activities like harvesting and selling native plants, flowers and seeds and clearing for agriculture and development “can be assessed and undertaken with a minimum of fuss”. This means the removal of flora survey requirements for all but high risk clearing activities.