Australia’s Growing Dam Crisis
“The food we eat the water we drink and
the power we use for most of our endeavours,
are available only because previous generations invested their knowhow and money for the future.
It is time this generation did the same.”
Australia is a dry continent – that is a fact of geography and global climate.
However, per head of population, we have abundant fresh water resources in rivers, lakes, dams, soils and underground. But we do not conserve enough of it, and much of what is conserved is wasted by foolish policies.
Politicians welcome (and sometimes subsidise) population growth, migrants, refugees and tourists but they neglect or prevent water conservation. And green schemers and globalist politicians are deliberately turning occasional water shortages into an on-going crisis.
Our main problem is that enormous volumes of flood water flow into the sea during rain events while the same rivers run dry during droughts. Sensible people would moderate both floods and droughts with well-planned dams and weirs.
Australia’s rainfall is not well distributed - usually there is abundant water on the coastal side of the ranges, but the vast inland is largely dryland and desert.
More than 80 years ago, Dr John Bradfield, the great Australian engineer who designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, could see what was needed – build dams to catch water on the rainy side and transfer it to the dry side, preferably generating some hydro power in the process. Water transfer could be achieved using tunnels and/or pipes-pumps assisted by syphon, wind or hydro energy. We have engineers and equipment able to drill huge traffic tunnels – let’s show similar skill in water management and transfer.
Once we had people with the determination and skills needed to create farsighted water projects like the Snowy Mountain Scheme, the Ord Scheme, the Gordon Dam, the Burdekin Dam and the Perth Kalgoorlie Water Pipeline. Those days are past.
Today we have far more people but we are not conserving more water. It is 35 years since we build a large dam in Australia. And we neglect or waste underground water resources.
Urban dwellers demand cheap, clean, abundant water for long showers, washing dishes and cars, public and private pools, verdant lawns, fountains, gardens, parks, golf courses and weekend retreats.
However, many of these same people tend to lead the vocal opposition to any proposal for a new dam. They criticise farmers who conserve water to grow our food and fibre, and promote high water prices in order to crush farm demand for it.
A sensible society would identify the best dam sites and have a long-term plan for acquiring and storing the land rights needed for them. We do the reverse. Decisions are postponed until the need is critical. Then landowners with vested interests, green busybodies and media stirrers manage to scare the politicians, and the water conservation proposal is killed.
Then the “No Dams” mafia takes over, trying to sterilise the site for all future dams by quietly changing land-use and vegetation classifications.
Sydney shows how to create a water shortage such as the current one that caused the sudden weekend imposition of water restrictions. We need to remember the history of this crisis.
Back in 2002 the Carr Labor government killed the proposal to build the Welcome Reef dam on the Shoalhaven River near Braidwood. To ensure this proposal never arose again Premier Carr gazetted 100 new national parks between the Bega Valley and Nowra.
Green destroyers have
also grossly mismanaged stored water by insisting on
excessive and ill-timed “environmental” flows. This is a
scheme where you build a dam to catch water and then try to
manage the water as if the dam did not exist. It is very
slow and expensive to get this lost water back from the sea
using the Flannery desalination plants.
We have businessmen who can spend millions of dollars on election advertisements and casinos, and politicians who can contemplate spending billions of dollars on games and stadiums, but they can always find an academic to debunk expenditure on a new dam.
American pioneers learned from the beavers how to preserve the life blood of rivers by building weirs. Our stressed Darling River has such a low gradient that a string of weirs could preserve the river environment and sensibly ration available water supplies for fish, farmers and wildlife. And it has tributaries that could support dams.
However Greens and fellow travellers can be guaranteed to oppose every new dam or weir proposal. Judging from overseas trends, they will soon be suggesting that existing dams be destroyed. If they can find a rare frog or a native plant, or can invent a dreamtime story, any dam proposal can be delayed for decades.
It is time for real conservation – conserve our water.
Viv Forbes is a geologist/pastoralist who has walked along or been flooded by many northern Australian rivers. He has fed starving stock in the droughts and carted water for them. When employed by the Queensland State Government as a field mapping geologist he inspected the Nathan Gorge Dam site in 1964, 55 years ago. It is still undeveloped.
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