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Thursday, April 2, 2009

'Failure of vision' on water crisis

The following is an article from today's Australian Newspaper - I think Ms Barlow nails it. Short term government means short visioned leadership.

AUSTRALIAN governments had failed the "vision" test by investing with "cult-like faith" in flawed technology to avert the national water crisis, a top UN adviser claimed yesterday.

Maude Barlow, a Canadian water expert who last October was named the UN's senior adviser on water issues, said the price for this lack of vision was being paid by ordinary Australians and farmers.

She accused federal and state governments of having "no overall plan" to save Australia's water heritage. Instead, governments had clung to a "vague belief in the magic of markets and kneeling at the throne of big technology".

"The only sectors being asked to make a sacrifice are home owners, who really make up a very small share of the water problem, and small farmers, who cannot compete with their larger competitors," Ms Barlow told policymakers and industry leaders at the Australian Water Summit in Sydney yesterday.

She said Australian governments "of all stripes are busy building expensive, energy-guzzling desalination plants".

Western Australia has had one plant online since 2006 and is building another, while NSW, Victoria and South Australia are building or planning to build desalination plants.

"Building big desalination plants, weirs and pipelines such as the Victorian Government's north-south pipeline also gives control over Australia's water to foreign water corporations," she said.

However, a spokeswoman for federal Water Minister Penny Wong, who is in the US until tomorrow, last night said Ms Barlow's "assessment is inaccurate", pointing to the Government's $12.9 billion Water for the Future plan.

"As well as making the necessary investment in water infrastructure and efficiency to enable our cities and farmers to adapt to climate change, our plan also includes a massive investment in returning water to our rivers to improve their health," the spokeswoman said.

Ms Barlow will on Saturday visit South Australia, which has been gripped by a water crisis for more than two years, to visit metropolitan stormwater recovery sites and the stricken Lower Lakes.
Last night, she told The Australian people were suffering under draconian water restrictions and higher rates.

"The penalty for many years of bad judgment by various levels of government at state and federal level is being paid by ordinary people and farmers," she said.

She singled out industries such as mining, bottled water suppliers and non-sustainable agriculture ventures as contributing to the "national water emergency".

She told yesterday's water industry summit that in NSW, at least 16 river systems had been permanently damaged by careless mining practices.

"The devastation caused by long-wall and open-cut mining operations is as horrifying as it is widespread," Ms Barlow said. "The destruction of aquifers and heavy metal pollution of ground and surface water is nationwide, and a disgrace."

1 comment:

Mad Bush Farm Crew said...

That's horrific! I'd agree that the mining etc has contributed to the problem in a major way. i have a sister and brother living in Gosford and they're under really ehavy water restrictions. One thing I can say about NZ is while we do get droughts etc they aren't like you get in Aus. Our Federated Farmer's here were telling our government they needed to seriously look at water storage options and..would you believe they ahve actually listened. When it comes to the big dollars they do the talking. The little guys always get lost in the winderness. Hope somewhere the Federal and State Governments get their heads out of the sand and look at the very big picture.