Weathering climatic change

Being unable to attend the forthcoming public meetings re the future water strategy, I have been examining our water supply situation.

Whilst acknowledging my limited understanding, I hope that the meetings will consider and address the following issues.

First, the population and activities conducted in this region are likely to expand enormously, not only in line with the nation's projected population growth but also because of the attractiveness of our climate relative to the increasingly harsh national climatic outlook. Nevertheless, projections indicate the likelihood of a more extreme climate even here: prolonged droughts and intense flooding. We therefore need an increased water supply that is able to be controlled and regulated against the extremities of demand and supply.

Secondly, the favoured water supply from the Wilsons River is not only more likely to vary in quantity in line with climatic fluctuations but also is more likely to be of poor quality, contaminated by agro-chemicals, defecation, dead animals and the like. We must also consider the likely harsh environmental impact on places downstream of reducing the river's flow to them.

Thirdly, whilst the option of another dam also has its drawbacks, its water would, I imagine, be easier to regulate and protect from pollution than that drawn from the river.

As the popularity of Rocky Creek Dam attests, it would provide another attractive tourist drawcard and picnic/ recreational facility for the region. It could also serve as another focal point for education on environmental and Indigenous matters.

Finally, no matter what sources are used for our supply, we must value and wisely use our water. Restrictions on the outdoor use of water do not serve this purpose. For one thing, they punish those who take the healthy and environmentally friendly option of growing their own food. Furthermore, they fail to halt the waste of water that occurs indoors. A better system would be to allocate each household a base amount of water (varying according to the number of residents in each household) for which usage would be charged at a low rate, with usage in excess of that amount being charged at a much higher rate. It would offer financial incentives and rewards for ratepayers who install facilities such as water-economical toilets and washing machines, rain and greywater tanks, as well as for those who grow vegetables at home. Such a system would be both fairer and more likely to bring about meaningful change in our water consumption habits.

Jill Garsden

Goonellabah


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