The weekly wash-up (January 8th)

River and water news from over the festive season – January 8th, 2014

Hot, dry weather raises water concerns across northern QLD Cairns might soon be facing water restrictions as northern Queensland remains in the grip of the big dry. Water restrictions will be in place within a fortnight unless rain arrives. Further south, waters restrictions in Charters Towers have been increased after temperatures soared last week.

Western Australia gets water torture warning  A former Water Corporation boss believes the State Government is courting more burst water and sewerage pipes by cutting the utility’s budget. The comments came after the Government revealed last month that it would strip $16 million from Water Corp’s asset investment program this year. In November Water Corp suggested their reduced budget may result in more frequent overflows from wastewater ponds and sewer blockages and lower quality discharge from treatment plants into sensitive marine areas.

Scientists uncover hidden river of rubbish  Thousands of pieces of plastic have been discovered, submerged along the river bed of the upper Thames Estuary. The sheer amount of plastic recovered shows there is an unseen stream of rubbish flowing through London which could be a serious threat to aquatic wildlife around the river and the North Sea, in to which the Thames flows. Large pieces can trap animals but smaller pieces can be inadvertently eaten. Once digested, plastic can release toxic chemicals which are then passed through the food chain.

The Thames River has a hidden mass of plastics moving along its bed. Photo by: Rosakoalaglitzereinhorn

The Thames River has a hidden mass of plastics moving along its bed. Photo by: Rosakoalaglitzereinhorn

Water risk as world warms  Thirty groups of scientists from 12 countries have got together to assess what a warmer world might mean for the human race. The multi-model assessment suggests that, in vulnerable regions, climate change will significantly add to the problem of water scarcity that is already arising from population growth. Climate-driven changes in evaporation, precipitation and run-off will result in a 40% increase in the number of people worldwide who must make do with less than 500 cubic metres of water per year — a commonly used threshold to signify ‘absolute’ water scarcity.

Water for sale under Territory guidelines  The Northern Territory’s Land Resources Management Department has set out guidelines for future water trading. The department says anyone wanting to purchase water can contact licensees on the water allocation licence register, or place an advertisement. The registers show a large number of farms, stations, orchards, and businesses have allocations they could trade, if someone wanted to buy their water.

Natural gas saves water  A new study finds that in Texas, the transition from coal to natural gas for electricity generation is saving water and making the state less vulnerable to drought. Even though exploration for natural gas through hydraulic fracturing requires significant water consumption in Texas, the new consumption is easily offset by the overall water efficiencies of shifting electricity generation from coal to natural gas.

Canadian river artificially sweetened  Canadian scientists have discovered artificial sweeteners in water samples collected from the Grand River in Ontario. The sweeteners – found in everything from diet drinks to flavored yoghurts – pass through waste-water treatment systems and are then discharged into waterways. Having survived the sewage treatment plants, the compounds also persisted through water purification to be found in trace amounts in municipal tap water from homes that draw water from the River Grand. The effects of artificial sweeteners on aquatic life are largely unknown.