Australia’s Breadbasket Faces Water Squeeze

Last modified on 2011-12-02 02:33:26 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

“CANBERRA—A plan to reduce water use in Australia’s key food-producing region is pitting farmers against environmentalists and throwing the long-term future of the country’s breadbasket into question.

The release of a draft plan to cut the supply of irrigation water in the Murray-Darling Basin, an area about the size of Texas and California combined, has angered both sides. Conservationists say it isn’t enough to restore local river systems and farmers say it could cost thousands of jobs and drive up food prices.

The basin, degraded by drought, state governments’ overallocation of water rights and by rising levels of salinity in the soil, an effect of irrigation, generates about 15 billion Australian dollars (US$14.7 billion) in agricultural produce a year, mostly grains, livestock and fiber. It accounts for 40% of national farm output by value and well over half of irrigated farm production, using nearly all the water held in the basin area.

The new plan, published over the weekend, proposes to recover 2,750 gigaliters of water a year—more than five times the volume found in the Sydney Harbour area—from irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin. One gigaliter, a billion liters, is enough to fill about 444 Olympic swimming pools.”

Read More: Online Wall Street Journal



Queensland Approves Toxic Waste Discharge

Last modified on 2013-12-09 23:18:15 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Retrieved from: Superstock

“The Queensland Government ignored environmental safety guidelines when it granted Origin Energy and ConocoPhillips permission to release toxic water from its coal seam gas operations into the headwaters of the Murray Darling Basin.

“In June last year the government granted an environmental approval allowing the companies to discharge the equivalent of eight Olympic swimming pools of treated coal seam gas water per day into the Condamine River south of Chinchilla.

“The water comes from the company’s desalination plant on the Walloons gas field, which is part of Origin Energy and ConocoPhillips’ $35 billion coal seam gas and liquefied natural gas plant near Gladstone.

“The approval – issued under the state’s environmental protection laws – allows the companies to release 17 chemicals and heavy metals into the Condamine River south of Chinchilla at levels considered to be toxic to animals, plants and micro-organisms that live in freshwater ecosystems under the ANZECC guidelines

“The companies have been discharging treated coal seam gas water into the Condamine River since September last year.”

Read more: ABC

Bottled water ban ‘stupid’

Last modified on 2011-10-10 01:17:11 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Drying up ... A vending machine on university campus.

Retrieved from: The Age

“THE peak body for the bottled water industry has called the Victorian College of the Arts’ decision to ban the sale of bottled water ”stupid”.

“Last week, the VCA announced it would stop selling bottled water at its Southbank campus in a bid to reduce its environmental footprint. The university has installed 10 new drinking fountains instead.

“The Australasian Bottled Water Institute’s chief executive, Geoff Parker, said the ban would not only create a ”nanny campus” but questioned the environmental benefits of the decision.

”If they are serious about reducing their environmental footprint, they probably need to ban soft drinks and coffee and just about every other commercial beverage other than bottled water, which has one of the lowest environmental footprints of any beverage,” Mr Parker said.”

Read more: The Age


The Decline Of Agriculture?

Last modified on 2011-07-05 16:36:24 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“Severe weather events around the world will increase, even parts of the globe that don’t normally see extreme weather events,” said Steff Gaulter, Al Jazeera’s senior weather presenter. “Those parts of the world that already struggle with water shortages will find matters worsening, including Australia, Mexico, the southwest United States, and parts of Africa.”

Gaulter agrees with the FAO that poorer countries are likely to be the worst affected because they have less resources to cope with disasters.

“With worsening water-shortages, there will be more crop-failures, which means an increase in malnutrition,” she added. “There is also likely to be an increase in disease as people drink water that is unsuitable for consumption. All of this is an added expense that will be particularly punishing for poorer regions to endure, particularly Sub-Saharan Africa.”

Approximately 300 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa currently lack access to clean drinking water.

“It is also estimated that by 2020, an additional 75 to 250 million people there will also face water shortages,” said Gaulter. “That’s in less than ten years.”

Read more: Aljazeera

Floods, Droughts, And A Global Water Warning

Last modified on 2011-06-27 17:58:00 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE ), a joint satellite mission by NASA and the German space agency DLR, tracks freshwater availability over the globe. And according to hydrologist James Famiglietti at the University of California, Irvine, it’s not revealing a pretty picture. His team has observed steadily declining groundwater reserves in many of the world’s major aquifers, particularly those in the arid and semi-arid parts of the globe. Between 1994 and 2006, annual fresh-water flow increased 18% suggesting an acceleration in the global water cycle of evaporation and rainfall.

Translation: More intense storms, flooding, and drought.

A redistribution of precipitation from the mid latitudes to higher and lower latitudes means that wet regions get wetter and dry get drier . Famigliette’s research is among the first to demonstrate that these conditions–previously predicted by climate models–are already happening. And this isn’t just a story about available drinking water because it causes tremendous concerns about food, energy, economic, and international security.”

Read more: Wired


Water Wars: The Battle Between Public and Private

Last modified on 2011-05-27 16:43:36 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“Australians are battling to come to terms with the impacts of the oft-criticised process of national water reform. The ongoing, abrasive debate surrounding the Basin Plan being drafted by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, outrage over the spiralling costs of currently redundant desalination plants and public protests about sky-rocketing water charges typify the predicament.

Australian water reform was conceived in 1994 by the Council of Australian Governments; nurtured by the prevailing mantra that free-market exposure was the ultimate panacea for undercapitalised and inefficient public utilities. COAG went one giant leap further, in deciding to establish a national water market; arguing that this would direct water to its most productive use.

In the years since these sweeping changes were announced, the wisdom of applying free market principles to the management of an essential natural resource has been largely discredited by events overseas: In the water-supply sector, major corporate players have been accused and, in more than a few instances, convicted of price-gouging, anti-competitive behaviour, corrupt practice and fraud. On all continents there are moves to wrest control from private corporations. Globally, more than 90 per cent of water services are now publicly owned.

In Australia there are valid concerns that water reform is leaving crucial decisions, with respect to the “where”, “when” and “how” of water distribution, in the hands of entities whose priority is profit rather than socially and environmentally responsible water use. Questions are being raised as to why our governments have been prepared to implement these radical policies without seeking and obtaining prior electoral mandate and in the absence of adequate constitutional protection of water.”

Read more: The Drum Opinion

WA dams set to dry up by summer’s end, expert warns

Last modified on 2013-12-09 23:18:05 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Retrieved from: ABC

“Perth’s drinking water supplies from dams will run out by the end of next summer even with decent rainfall, according to predictions by the Centre for Water Research.

“By then, Perth and the South-West would become solely reliant on water supplied from the already stressed Gnangara Mound aquifer and the Kwinana desalination plant, director Jorg Imberger said.

“Even using an optimistic calculation that 35 gigalitres (35 billion litres) of rainwater would flow into the city’s dams – far greater than the 13 gigalitres last year – the dams would run dry.

“(Even) given recycled water, less water use, pumping the surface aquifer at Gnangara Mound a little bit more and hoping for rain, we’ll basically have no water left at the end of summer 2012,” Professor Imberger said.

“The comments confer with the national Climate Commissioners First Report released yesterday, which warns that water availability will be at great risk before the end of the century due to changing rainfall patterns.

“WA’s South-West region was already “drying out” and all projections showed no improvement, the report by Professor Will Steffen said.”

Read more:  SMH

The Next Big Thing In Industry: Water Profiteering

Last modified on 2011-05-02 16:43:47 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Executive Director of Food & Water Watch Wenonah Hauter. Photo retrieved from:

“My colleague, Anil Naidoo from the Council of Canadians, and I were invited to the meeting to debate the libertarian economist David Zetland and William Muhairwe, managing director of Uganda’s national water company. Both Zetland and Muhairwe are big proponents of full-cost pricing and dismissive of the government’s role in providing water.

Some may wonder why Anil and I would go there to debate, especially when the audience was comprised of people employed in the water industry. The truth is that there is no better place to really figure out what they are up to. An hour debate was a small price to pay for free entrance to the $2,500.00 event that gave us real insight into the newest plans of the global water cartel.

The conference started on a sour note with a keynote address from Michel Camdessus, former Managing Director of the IMF. Camdessus is one of the masterminds behind the scheme to force the 1.44 billion people who make $1.25 a day to pay for the full cost of water. It was also disappointing that Kofi Annan appears to be running interference for the water corporations, basically saying in his speech that the time for protest is over and that we all need to get along.

One of the most distasteful moments of the conference, which was held in a Five Star hotel in Berlin, was when Sanjay Bhatnagar, CEO of WaterHealth International, took the mic to brag about how his investors were making piles of money selling water in villages in Africa and India. WaterHealth issues smart cards that are used to fill jugs with water—a 21st century “innovation” for redistributing wealth from the poor in the developing world to the “global investors” of the company.”

Read more: Food & Water Watch


Wet blanket over desal plants

Last modified on 2013-12-09 23:17:57 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Wivenhoe Dam

Retrieved from:The Australian

“On a crisp dry Melbourne winter’s day just over a month before stepping down from the state’s top job, former Victorian premier Steve Bracks announced his government would invest more than $3 billion to build a desalination plant on the South Gippsland coastline at Wonthaggi.

“It was June 2007, the height of the crippling millennium drought. Melbourne’s water storages had plunged to 28.4 per cent, a dramatic dip of more than 20 per cent from where storage levels were just a year earlier. Lawmakers and bureaucrats were suddenly grappling with the frightening prospect that the city could run out of water.

“And Melbourne was not facing this crisis alone. Billions of dollars were being invested across the country by state governments – sometimes with the assistance of federal government subsidies – in expensive large-scale desalination plants.

“Today, Sydney and Perth get about 3 per cent of the total urban water supply from desalination plants. A $1.2bn plant is operating at a third of its capacity in southeast Queensland, and Adelaide’s $1.8bn desalination project is expected to be completed sometime next year.

“But the merit of these investment decisions – often made by state governments and large scale water holders when anxiety about a city’s water supply is at its peak – has been questioned by three reports released over the past week by the Productivity Commission and the key independent advisory body to state and federal governments on water, the National Water Commission.”

Read more: The Australian

Billion-plus people to lack water in 2050: study

Last modified on 2011-03-30 03:56:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“More than one billion urban residents will face serious water shortages by 2050 as climate change worsens effects of urbanization, with Indian cities among the worst hit, a study said Monday.

“The shortage threatens sanitation in some of the world’s fastest-growing cities but also poses risks for wildlife if cities pump in water from outside, said the article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“The study found that under current urbanization trends, by mid-century some 993 million city dwellers will live with less than 100 liters (26 gallons) each day of water each — roughly the amount that fills a personal bathtub — which authors considered the daily minimum.

“Adding on the impact of climate change, an additional 100 million people will lack what they need for drinking, cooking, cleaning, bathing and toilet use.

“”Don’t take the numbers as destiny. They’re a sign of a challenge,” said lead author Rob McDonald of The Nature Conservancy, a private environmental group based near Washington.

“”There are solutions to getting those billion people water. It’s just a sign that a lot more investment is going to be needed, either in infrastructure or in water use efficiency,” he said.”

Read more: Brisbane Times

Minister swims against the current of river rage

Last modified on 2011-02-18 22:59:42 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

“Early next year the Water Minister is expected to take a final blueprint for reforming the basin to parliament. That plan will need to return more water back to the environment while not threatening the livelihood of irrigation strongholds up and down the sprawling river network.
Tony Burke 
” If Burke’s experience in the portfolio to date is any indication of what he will face this year, it is unsurprising he is so quick to label this his greatest political test — one he tells Inquirer he is walking into without delusion.

“After holding the agriculture portfolio in the Rudd government, Burke had just been appointed Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities when an almighty furore erupted over the release of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s first draft guidelines on how to rescue the river system.

“The furious response to that guide, which proposed that the federal government buy back between 27 per cent and 37 per cent of water entitlements across the basin, has dominated the minister’s past six months and sparked three parliamentary inquiries into how environmental demands can be balanced against the needs of regional communities.”
Read more: The Australian

Vision: 8 Reasons Global Capitalism Makes Our Lives Worse — And How We Can Create a New Kind of Economy

Last modified on 2011-01-18 16:00:35 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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Globalization wastes natural resources. Consumerism is threatening the planet, natural resources are stretched to the breaking point and yet we have an economic system that encourages us to consume more and more, says Norberg-Hodge. Consumer culture is increasingly urban and when rural people move to the city the food they used to grow themselves is now grown on industrial-sized chemical-intensive farms. Food must be trucked to cities, waste must be trucked out. Large dams are needed to provide water and huge centralized power plants must be fueled by coal and uranium mines.

4. Globalization accelerates climate change. Globalization’s “success” is often attributed to efficiencies of scale, but mostly it is fueled by deregulation and hidden subsidies that make food from around the globe cost less than food from down the street. With efficiencies of scale, it’s really the opposite, says British MP Zac Goldsmith, “Tuna caught off the east coast of America is flown to Japan, processed and flown back to America to be sold to consumers; English apples are flown to South Africa to be waxed, flown back to England to be sold.”

Read more: AlterNet

War over water will produce no winners

Last modified on 2010-12-03 17:54:05 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“Clever compromise is the only hope.

“When Mark Twain decreed “whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting over”, he might as well have been talking about the Murray-Darling river system.

“He was supposedly referring to the 1850s California gold rush and the need for water to sustain burgeoning mining settlements. But in Australia, the famous author who during a visit in 1896 likened the Murray to the Mississippi where he grew up, was more prescient than he could have realised.

“For 114 years, since Twain’s visit and the coincidental collapse of the Murray’s first irrigation settlement scheme, at Mildura, vested interests have been doing just what he advocated: fighting over water, without resolution.

“As the furore over the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s guidelines for a basin-wide water plan have highlighted, an agreement cannot be reached on how the water resources of the 1 million square- kilometre Murray-Darling river system, of which the Murray is the most important part, should be managed. Nor is accord likely to occur while the protagonists – irrigators, farm groups and river townspeople on one side and environmentalists, scientists and bureaucrats on the other – are ideologically so far apart.”

Read more: Sydney Morning Herald

Alcanza El Azúcar Su Máximo En 30 años

Last modified on 2010-11-04 15:13:18 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“Crece la demanda de los grandes países importadores tradicionales -China, Pakistán, Unión Europea, Indonesia o Rusia- que registran cosechas nacionales menos generosas de lo previsto debido a una climatología mediocre”, subrayan Kona Haque y Alex Bos, economistas del banco Macquarie.

Citan por ejemplo las inundaciones en Pakistán (noveno consumidor mundial) y la ola de calor del pasado verano boreal en Rusia (primer importador).

La Organización Internacional del Azúcar (ISO), que en agosto preveía un excedente de 3.22 millones de toneladas de la oferta mundial en 2010/2011, tras dos años de déficit récord, redujo sus previsiones a un excedente de dos millones de toneladas.

Gran parte de las necesidades las ha cubierto hasta ahora Brasil, de lejos el mayor productor.

Cuando las lluvias paralizaban este verano los transportes en el interior del país, más de 120 barcos en espera de carga atascaban los puertos brasileños, “lo que generó una situación caótica” para el comercio mundial, explicó la consultora Kingsman.

“Al mismo tiempo el sur de Brasil sufría sequía, lo que afectará considerablemente la temporada de los rendimientos de caña de azúcar”, agregó.”

Leér más: El Mexicano

The New Oil: Should private companies control our most precious natural resource?

Last modified on 2010-10-19 20:48:49 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Lake Mead. Photo retrieved from:

“Sitka, Alaska, is home to one of the world’s most spectacular lakes. Nestled into a U-shaped valley of dense forests and majestic peaks, and fed by snowpack and glaciers, the reservoir, named Blue Lake for its deep blue hues, holds trillions of gallons of water so pure it requires no treatment. The city’s tiny population—fewer than 10,000 people spread across 5,000 square miles—makes this an embarrassment of riches. Every year, as countries around the world struggle to meet the water needs of their citizens, 6.2 billion gallons of Sitka’s reserves go unused. That could soon change. In a few months, if all goes according to plan, 80 million gallons of Blue Lake water will be siphoned into the kind of tankers normally reserved for oil—and shipped to a bulk bottling facility near Mumbai. From there it will be dispersed among several drought-plagued cities throughout the Middle East. The project is the brainchild of two American companies. One, True Alaska Bottling, has purchased the rights to transfer 3 billion gallons of water a year from Sitka’s bountiful reserves. The other, S2C Global, is building the water-processing facility in India. If the companies succeed, they will have brought what Sitka hopes will be a $90 million industry to their city, not to mention a solution to one of the world’s most pressing climate conundrums. They will also have turned life’s most essential molecule into a global commodity.”

Read more: Newsweek

Preparing For A Water-Limited World

Last modified on 2010-10-14 16:50:30 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

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“The data and statistical tools used to plan $500 billion worth of annual global investments in dams, flood-control structures, diversion projects, and other big pieces of water infrastructure are no longer trustworthy,” she writes. “In other words, when it comes to water, the past is no longer a reliable guide to the future.”

The uncertainty of future water supplies and flow patterns is not limited to concerns over dams and diversions. Food security, public health, and life as we know it are also at risk.

Postel describes a “day of reckoning on the horizon” in the U.S. Southwest, for instance. Some scientists predict there is a 50 percent chance that Lake Mead, which stores Colorado River water for tens of millions of people and one million acres of irrigated land, will dry up by 2021.

And she notes that as much as 10 percent of the world’s food is produced through tapping too deep into residual and unreplenished groundwater resources. “This creates a bubble in the food economy far more serious than the recent housing, credit, or dot-com bubbles, for we are meeting some of today’s food needs with tomorrow’s water.”

The Solutions

“The water challenges confronting us locally, regionally, and globally are unprecedented,” Postel writes. The good news, she says, is that we have the economic and technological capacity to make sure global water needs are met. We just have to start using it.

The smarter path to water sustainability also requires us to work with nature and assign it a value for flood protection, water filtration, and other beneficial services it provides, according to Postel. And smarter water users-individuals, cities, utilities, businesses, and farmers-will be more aware of their water footprints and how to reduce them.”

Read more: National Geographic

World’s Rivers in Crisis: U.S. And Europe Face Highest Threat Levels

Last modified on 2010-10-08 16:54:29 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

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“Rivers are the arteries of the planet, linking continents through coastal zones to the ocean. More than 120,000 species of plants and animals make up the world’s riverine ecosystems that provide the multi-trillion dollar services humanity relies upon – however up to 20,000 are at risk of extinction Vörösmarty says.

An international team examined data sets on 23 factors that impact rivers around the world and created state-of-the-art computer models to integrate all of the information to paint the first ever global picture of the health of river systems. More than 65 percent of the world’s rivers are in trouble and this finding is very “conservative” since there was not enough data to assess impacts of climate change, pharmaceutical compounds, mining wastes and massive inter-basin water transfers like the Colorado River in the western U.S.

Where rivers are least at risk are where human populations are smallest. Rivers in arctic regions and relatively inaccessible areas of the tropics appear to be in the best health, according to the findings.

In an unrelated study more than 80 percent of male bass fish exhibited female traits such as egg production because of a “toxic stew” of pollutants in the Potomac River that flows through Washington, DC scientists reported last week. Similar findings have been made in many U.S. rivers.”

Read more: AlterNet

Water Runneth Over Into Lower Lakes

Last modified on 2010-09-20 17:29:33 GMT. 1 comment. Top.

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“Water was gushing from Lake Alexandrina into a parched Lake Albert yesterday, prompting long-suffering locals to crack open the champagne and toast the Lower Lakes.

Environment Department workers have spent the past week removing reinforcing steel on the man-made embankment that separates the two lakes, ahead of the planned removal of about 100m of the 270m bund this week.

Environment Department chief executive Allan Holmes said a small, 5m slot was cut on Sunday to test the stability of the embankment.

“We found the bank was unstable and water started to flow through it,” he said.

The embankment progressively broke away under the intense water pressure and, by yesterday morning, sported a gaping hole at least 50m wide.”

Read more: Adelaide

Gobierno De Australia Comprará Agua

Last modified on 2010-08-20 18:52:19 GMT. 0 comments. Top.

Más de diez años de sequía ha secado gran parte de la cuenca inferior de los ríos Murray y Darling. Foto encontrado en:

“Australia gastará un total de tres mil 100 millones de dólares australianos (unos dos mil 800 millones de dólares o dos mil100 millones de euros) en la compra de agua a los agricultores para recuperar el caudal de los ríos afectados por la sequía en el suroeste del país.

Así lo anunció hoy la primera ministra laborista, Julia Gillard, quien ha incluido una larga lista de medidas medioambientales en su programa electoral ante los comicios parlamentarios del próximo 21 de agosto.

“Compraremos el agua necesaria a los agricultores que estén dispuestos a venderla para recuperar la salud de los ríos”, indicó Gillard a la cadena de radio ABC.

De la cifra total, el Gobierno federal ya ha gastado mil 400 millones de dólares australianos (mil 280 millones de dólares o 969 millones de euros) en comprar 900 mil millones de agua a los agricultores, quienes adquieren los derechos sobre el líquido ante las administraciones de los estados.

Algunos legisladores han pedido al Ejecutivo central que se haga cargo de la gestión del agua para mejorar la gestión de los recursos fluviales.

Más de diez años de sequía ha secado gran parte de la cuenca inferior de los ríos Murray y Darling, afectando al medio natural y las cosechas en el suroeste.

En 2008, el Gobierno comenzó el programa de compra de agua y, en 2014, espera que uno de cada siete litros de agua adquiridos por los agricultores para los sistemas de irrigación sea devuelto a los ríos.”

Leer mas: Informador

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