The weekly wash-up (November 11th)

The week that was in river and water news – November 11th, 2013

Smart water meters stop money going down the drain   A study trialing  ‘smart’ water meters identified 4% of households as having a suspected leak. Of those customers, 46% undertook work which confirmed they did have at least one leak and repaired it. The resulting water savings benefit more than the hip pocket. There are also wider environmental and economic benefits from reducing water wastage related to energy consumption and water treatment costs.

China’s dam boom is an assault on its great rivers   Touted as a low carbon source of energy, China has built some 22,000 dams more than 15 metres tall (roughly half the world’s current total) for hyydropower since the 1950s. The negative ecological impacts of dams have been discussed here previously. Dams have also been linked to earthquakes in China. Over 50 studies have linked the 50-story-high Zipingpu Dam on the Min River to the 2008 7.9-magnitude Wenchuan quake which killed 80,000 people. The human impact of dams is also through dislocation. During the past 50 years about 16 million Chinese have been relocated to make way for hydroelectric projects, and of these 10 million live in poverty. So are dams carbon neutral? Not really. The rotting of inundated trees and vegetation in reservoirs emits the greenhouse gasses, carbon dioxide and methane, that rise from reservoir surfaces.

Giant toothed platypus roamed Australia  A giant platypus with powerful teeth roamed the rivers of northern Australia between 5 and 15 million years ago, researchers say. The giant platypus was identified from a fossilised molar tooth discovered at Australia’s famous Riversleigh World Heritage area. The one-metre giant would have happily crunched up small vertebrates including lungfish, frogs and small turtles – unlike the modern platypus which is much smaller and toothless.

Edgbaston Springs in the Great Artesian Basin. Photo by DSITIA

Edgbaston Springs in the Great Artesian Basin. Photo by DSITIA

Plugging away to improve the vast outback Great Artesian basin   A joint government and landowner-funded program known as the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (GABSI) that has been capping bores in the outback for the past 14 years is coming to an end. The program has seen springs start flowing again. This also helps protect the ancient and rare animals and plants of the region. It is unlikely, however, that the western side of the Basin can recover as quickly as the east.

Camera reveals secrets of the Murray Cod   A Murray Cod’s breeding cycle in the wild has been filmed for the first time in the Dumaresq River, northern NSW. Murray Cod males look after the eggs and larvae for up to 25 days, including chasing away turtles and other fish. The rare footage also shows the male Murray Cod fanning the eggs to remove sediment and is a strong reminder of how essential good water quality is in providing high quality breeding habitat for this iconic native fish.

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