schemes for water supply in
1. The need.
The amount of Rainfall on the Australian continent is not increasing. In fact, the general consensus of global climate models is that it’s decreasing slightly. The population of
Let’s look at the population trend in more detail.
The water usage by each Australian depends on both direct usage, and usage by food. The direct usage may decline slightly as, for example, gardens get smaller and washing machines become more efficient, but overall the usage per head of population can only drop slightly. Let’s trade this off against the faster than linear growth of population to say that over the next 50 and 100 years the need for water will grow linearly with time.
It will be immediately clear that, as present water supplies are struggling to keep pace with demand now, they are going to be totally inadequate in 50 years time, and even worse in 100 years time.
2. Three old grandiose schemes
The past is not short of grandiose schemes for solving
2.1. Piping snowballs from
Many years ago a patent was granted on the topic of piping snowballs from Antarctica to
This scheme fails primarily because
2.2. Building a mountain range through the middle of
The centre of the
This scheme fails primarily because of the cost required to build mountains that high. Only a tiny percentage of the cost would be recoverable through mined byproducts.
2.3. Implementing a water trading scheme for farmers.
Rather than increasing the supply of water, induce farmers to fight each other over a progressively more expensive and dwindling resource.
This has so many negative aspects that it is difficult to state them all. It would lead to losses in time, effort and money to an ever-growing beaurocracy that essentially does nothing. It would lead to the generation of a number of fat-cat middlemen who make a profit off water trading at the expense of the farming community. And it would lead to a reduction in food and clothing production even as the need for food and clothing is increasing. This would be a complete disaster in the long term, with losses in export earnings and massive food price hikes because of the food shortages. In short, it would destroy
3. What to do with the centre of
An advantage of making
What has this to do with water supply? Nothing. But once settled, there are other rivers and lakes nearby that could be flushed out and used as sources and storages of fresh water for local use.
The alternative of turning Lake Eyre into a freshwater lake would rely on pumping the water out to the sea (via
Rather than moving
5. Directing water from the North of Australia down to the South East and South West.
The lowest cost version of this that I’m aware of was proposed by
Capture some of that water and pump it to a high place on the
Another version is the Bradfield Scheme. Original documents can be found in the
A variant on the Bradfield Scheme is to take the water to the east of the Thompson R., on the western flank of the
There has been a recent proposal to feed water down from the
6. SE Coast road, rail and pipeline link.
It used to be that people driving between
I strongly suggest a joint road, high-speed rail and water pipeline link from
Later, the pipeline could be extended to
7. Greater use of desalinated seawater.
Let me also digress slightly into the topic of water quality and cost. Farms in
So one option is to get ALL
Have you by any chance noticed traffic congestion on the
Compared with the grandiose schemes mentioned above, this option is very very inexpensive. A bridge over the weir connecting the heads would also go a long way towards solving the
Once successful, proposals may come forward for turning some other lakes adjoining the ocean into freshwater lakes.
In 1985, a report came out evaluating options to overcome the problem of water shortages in
To give you some idea of the potential of these sites, most of the Snowy Mountains Scheme runs of less than 20% of the catchment area of the Snowy R. With the Snowy below Delegate, we’re talking about more like 60% of the catchment area.
None of the three were implemented, and very little has been done in the past 25 years in
10. North Coast NSW.
There isn’t a single reservoir of any significant size between
The two rivers with greatest potential on the north coast of
Upper reaches of some rivers are off limits because of reserves such as the “Wild Rivers” park and the reserve on
Water captured on the upper tributaries of the Clarence R could easily be redirected through a few tunnels across the McPherson range to the Gold Coast, up onto the plateau for Toowoomba, down to Coffs Harbour and places further south along the coast, or through the Great Dividing Range to the Dumaresq R which feeds the Murray-Darling system.
11. Water farming.
One financial alternative to the purchasing of large plots of land for the siting of reservoirs is “water farming”. In water farming a rural landowner gets paid for the water on his land as if it was a cash crop. The value of the amount of water extracted from a reservoir for water supply or hydroelectric purposes is apportioned between the landowners who own the land on which the reservoir sits.
12. Flood harvesting.
This brilliant idea is so feasible that it has already been implemented in at least one location in
The first part of the basic idea is to catch only floodwater from a river system, and not all of that. This would be done by putting an inlet or inlets above the level of normal flow. Each inlet would be small, they could be made so small as to be essentially invisible. Each inlet would have a screen at the top to keep out unwanted animals, plants and/or boulders.
The concept is to get a water supply that is completely environmentally friendly, not overly expensive, and doesn’t require the building of any extra reservoirs. Instead, pre-existing reservoirs that are running at only a percentage of their full level would be filled up. Currently, by far the majority of reservoirs in
Once water enters the inlet, it could be transported to the pre-existing reservoir using a trough, pipe or tunnel. One simple case I can think of would be like an ag-drain or a stormwater drain, a buried pipe with slits along the top for water to enter. This water would then drain under the action of gravity to the pre-existing reservoir. There are many possible arrangements. All they need in common is to have an inlet above the normal water flow level that can only be reached under flood conditions or when the water level is otherwise exceptionally high.
The system would be especially suitable for creeks that have too small a catchment area to warrant the construction of a reservoir. There are plenty of creeks like this, such as those running between the Cataract, Cordeaux and Avon reservoirs inland from
Normal creek and river flows are unaffected by this scheme. A system could even be set to aid rather than interfere with that dangerous sport white-water rafting, so would even be suitable for the “Wild Rivers” park.
13. Prize for best solution to
Every engineering project of any significance since the invention of the wheel has had to cope with protesters. People protest for a wide variety of reasons, and it’s never possible to deal with them all. But it did occur to me that “democracy” in its original form was actually government by the people, and the people who would govern at any particular time were chosen by lottery. What if the solution of
The entrants to the competition, and any other member of the public who wants, would be given copies of appropriate data predicted 50 and 100 years into the future. This would include maps of rainfall, maps of water loss through evaporation, water loss through infiltration, water loss through transpiration and growth of native plants. It would show maps of water demand for drinking water and farm use. It would include a map of topography. And a map of environmental sensitivity and land use. All these maps would be very detailed and in a format readable by any geographic information system (GIS) software. Additional information would include costing for reservoir construction, land purchase, pipelines, channels, other ways of shipping water, desalination, as well as engineering data.
Judging of the competition would be by public vote after technical assessment by a wide-ranging panel of experts. The technical assessment would ensure that the entries satisfy the criteria of not fudging the figures.
One way in which this would help is that opinionated members of the public would end up protesting in favour of a particular solution, whichever one they happen to favour, rather than protesting against everything - when tends to be the norm.