The weekly wash-up (November 24th)

The week that was in river and water news – November 24th, 2013

Water shortages across regional Australia  This week reports came from across the nation about water shortages. In central-west NSW concerns were raised about a proposed 29 gigalitre transfer of water from Windamere to the Burrendong Dam in January. This is because of fears the region is at the beginning of another major drought. In Western Australia’s Gascoyne region the water situation has become so dire that growers on opposite sides of the river will only be able to access water every other day. Meanwhile, in western Queensland  it is expected Cloncurry’s main water supply will fall below 10% in 25 days, making it too low to pump water.

One year on: Big changes flow from Murray-Darling Basin plan   Under the basin plan the Commonwealth is recovering 2,750 gigalitres of flow for the environment. The Basin Authority chairman said “the signing-off of the Murray-Darling plan 12 months ago represented a big step change in the way in which we go about managing water, looking at the needs of the Basin as a whole, rather than  individual priorities of the states”. The National Irrigators’ Council chairman said there had been mixed experiences for irrigators along the river system. He said there were positives for some from a sale of water entitlements but it was shrinking the size of the Basin’s irrigation footprint.

Macaulay River valley, New Zealand. Conversion of beef to dairy framing on a broad scale is predicted to have negative consequences for New Zealand's rivers. Photo by Phillip Kapper.

Macaulay River valley, New Zealand. Conversion of beef to dairy framing on a broad scale is predicted to have negative consequences for New Zealand’s rivers. Photo by Phillip Kapper.

‘Dirty water’ fears in NZ   A new report predicts hundreds of thousands of hectares of New Zealand farmland will be converted into dairy farms within the next six years. Even with best practice mitigation, the large-scale conversion of more land to dairy farming will generally result in more degraded fresh water. Degradation is mainly associated with nutrient leaching from farms.

Fukushima’s radioactive water will be dumped into ocean   Since the 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami sparked the nuclear disaster, TEPCO has been pouring millions of litres of water onto Fukushima’s reactors to try and keep them cool. Some of that radioactive water is being stored in tanks at the site but already thousands of litres have leaked into the Pacific Ocean. After the stored water is treated and stripped of most radioactive elements, it will also be dumped into the Pacific.

The future of water sustainability  A 2013 World Economic Forum report named water scarcity as one of the top global risks facing companies in the 21st century. In response companies are making more water-related investments. These are not only for immediate business purposes, but because water sustains life and is intimately connected to all aspects of economic development. Traditional charity models are becoming outmoded. Investments in digging wells have evolved into far more dynamic, market-oriented approaches like targeted grants intended to optimise social returns per philanthropic dollar.