Some weeks ago, we proffered some thoughts as to Australia’s infrastructure needs, considering in particular the proposal, conservatively costed at $114 billion, for high-speed rail to link the nation’s east coast capitals.
We argued the idea does not represent wise use of funds and there is a solid economic case for high-speed train systems to link east capitals with their nearby centres, such as linking Brisbane with Ipswich, Toowoomba, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. see more here
Creating Water Resources Could be a Wise use of Funds.
In this missive, we consider water. While we hear endlessly of the droughts that bedevil Australian farming, it seems the wider urban community pays little mind to the precious resource other than, perhaps, at times of prolonged El Nino events.
Recent Water Developments
The most recent saw the Queensland government construct the $1.2 billion Gold Coast desalination plant. The facility came onstream in February 2009 and was completed in the third quarter of 2010. Desalinated water was blended with treated Hinze Dam water in 2009-10, the final years of the Millennium Drought, and during flood events in 2011 and 2013. The plant can supply about 125 megalitres of water a day, equivalent to 50 Olympic-size pools.
The Millennium Drought also led to creation of the Wyaralong Dam in the Scenic Rim region, construction of which began in 2006 and was completed in 2010. The dam, on the Teviot Brook, has a 546 sq/km catchment and a holding capacity of 103,000 megalitres. Also, plans were laid for a dam to harness flows along a 160km stretch of the Mary River, in the South Burnett region, but failed to gain approval due to ecological and environmental issues.
The watercourse and its catchment are home to the endangered Mary River Cod, Mary River Turtle, Giant Barred Frog, Cascade Tree Frog, Coxen’s Fig Parrot, Queensland Lungfish, Tusked Frog, Honey Blue-Eye fish and endangered butterflies. Plans for the dam, the subject of a Senate Inquiry in 2007, were abandoned in November 2009 after federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett refused approval.
Talk of water begs the question: What is the extent of country’s water resource?
The answer was given some years ago by an New South Wales government hydrologist in terms that bring home a stark reality. The flow of every river in Australia combined in any one year is equal to, on average, 1% of the flow of the Mississippi River. The fact – and let’s not forget there are many other large rivers in the United States – brings into question the concept of a big Australia (big population that is), a vision held by successive recent federal governments and popular with Queensland governments.
I don’t wish to suggest growth should not occur, but rather that such a path needs a strong focus on water, without which nothing is possible.
With water, we can expand regional communities and spread economic development. It is a sine-qua-non if we are to open up Australia’s north and to expand agriculture, an area that, given proximity to Asia, presents enormous economic potential.
Possible Water Resource Development
Right now, the Northern Territory government is seeking to assess the potential of the territory’s aquafers in a bid to realise some of that potential.
It is clear from the foregoing that, as inhabitants of the driest continent on earth, we need to harness the rains that fall in the La Nina years to provide water during El Nino events. Doing so requires the construction of storages.
Capturing the rain that falls in Queensland’s north, and moving it through pipelines and storages to areas where it can be utilised to real benefit has long been a vision. As a state, and at a national level, we need to develop a long-term water infrastructure plan that gives due thought to Australia’s unique ecology.
After all, loss of species makes mankind the poorer; lessening the potential for everything from medicine to tourism and our understanding of evolution. We need to identify what watercourses are damable, how water can be syphoned from areas of strong rainfall, and where pipelines and storages can be built. Proactive research now is essential to realise our potential, spread economic development more evenly across the regions and help ensure prosperity for future generations.
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