Water

Queensland, Australia and it’s relation to water is interesting to analyze.  It is home to one of the most famous water environments in the world, the Great Barrier Reef.  Queensland is currently experiencing a rapidly growing population and an economy that requires an ever increasing demand for water. [2] This demand for water is complicated by a chaotic cycle of drought and flood periods, combined with the need for preservation of national landmarks such as the Great Barrier Reef and endangered species found nowhere else on the planet.  Technical industries and agriculture are expanding.  This growth results in an increased need for water.  With so much at stake environmentally and the great need for water, it is an interesting location to study.

Queensland is a unique because it uses public and private efficient water distribution and sewerage collection and recycling.  A majority of water distribution has been taken over by a private company called Seqwater.  This company is contracted out by the government to insure most of the urban populations of Queensland receive tap water.  Due to a rapidly increasing demand for water, costs have risen substantially, which has brought water issues to the forefront of the political arena. [1] Construction of infrastructure including dams and pipelines have been controversial as they alter ecosystems and natural river structures.  An example of a step the government has taken to navigate these issues includes the appointment of a new Environmental Minister. [3]

Several environmental groups have raised concerns for natural water ecosystems regarding how they have been affected by urban and agricultural water infrastructures.  For example, these infrastructures have damaged waterways critical to the survival of endangered species such as the Australian Lungfish and Mary River Turtle who thrive in these shrinking natural water ecosystems.  They would face extinction if their environments were to be dammed for the purpose of building water reservoirs such as dams and construction of dykes that would significantly alter river flow rates.  Environmental groups are taking action to prevent those obstacles, which is encouraging for the future of Queensland’s biodiversity and environmental health. [9]

Queensland goes through periods of drawn-out floods and droughts.  This is unique to the area because they seldom have just the right amount of water and instead have the two opposite extremes.  To combat these fluctuations in water availability the Australian government has built dams and water aqueducts to transport the water to growing urban and industrial centers.  Despite these efforts to combat their climate Australia is facing ever increasing water shortages and increasing water costs. [11]

The Queensland government has begun to find balance between the demand for its water and the maintenance of its environmental integrity.  Australians have been willing to accept cutting edge water technology including drinking their own recycled sewage water [L2] in order to meet their need for a steady source of water. The growth of Queensland’s economy and population is made possible by the progressive principles the government and special interest have identified and corrected.  Is Queensland a model for the mastery of nature’s water supply?  Or will sacrifices to the environment need to be made?

Privatization of water

MAP OF SEQWATER

This map that shows the different dams and pipelines manufactured by the private water company, Seqwater. This company is based in Southeast Queensland. This company provides an excellent example of water privatization and the extensive network businesses can create. They were created during Queensland’s water reform and now handle around 90% of Southeast Queensland’s population’s water supply. They are responsible for around 25 dams and multiple pipelines.[1. Seqwater, 2013, http://www.seqwater.com.au/sites/default/files/PDF%20Documents/Publications/201306%20MajorAssetMap.pdf]

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Queensland’s water future

Water is important in Queensland to sustain their lifestyle, nourish the environment, sustain their farms, shape their economy, and drive their industry.  Queensland faces a growing population, industry, and a variable climate that has periods of dry and wet periods.  Queensland must plan for future water and sewer to sustain their current lifestyle, and planning today will prepare for tomorrow.  Queensland is currently in the process of a 30 year water management plan that will insure future economic confidence and insure the people will continue to sustain their current lifestyle.[2. Help shape Queensland’s water future, 2013, Queensland Government, http://www.dews.qld.gov.au/policies-initiatives/water-sector-reform/30-year-strategy]

 

Paradise Dam and its effect on endangered fishes

paradise dam wall

Paradise Dam, built in 2005, near Biggenden and Bundaberg, Australia is named for the ghost town of Paradise that is now underwater following construction.  The construction of this dam has been a controversial topic because of the possible damage it could cause to the fishery in the Burnett River, which is home to the endangered Queensland Lungfish.  In response to the controversy, a fish ladder has been built in hopes that the fish species will use it to pass through the dam.  However, no large fish have been recorded using the downstream fishway and only few fish have been observed using the upstream fishway.[3. Paradise Dam, 2007, Roger Currie source. https://rogercurrie.wordpress.com/page/5/]

 

Great Barrier Reef and Mining  Wastewater

Premier Campbell Newman watches rising Fitzroy River and (inset) a submerged Ensham dragline

Environmentalists of Queensland are attacking mining companies who empty their pits into river systems.  These mining companies have stated that the practice is well monitored and that the river will not be polluted.  However Libby Connors, an environmentalist, explains that mining businesses no longer required to test the water they are dumping into the rivers.  From that information it can be concluded that the water being dumped into the rivers could possibly be toxic. Farmers, environmentalists, and the Greens attacked the mining businesses decisions to dump their water by describing it as a threat to the land, communities, and the Great Barrier Reef.[4. James Laws, Tim Marsden Source: The Courier-Mail]

 

The Great Barrier Reef and Pollution

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The Great Barrier Reef has made numerous appearances in the news recently because of the amount of pollution occurring. Clive Palmer, a nickel refinery, has been pumping nitrogen into the reef for years, even after the government intervened.[5. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/feb/12/cliver-palmers-nickel-refinery-pumped-nitrogen-great-barrier-reef-park] To the horror of environmental groups, the Australian government has approved a plan to dump 3 million cubic meters of dredge soil into the reef in late January.[6. http://www.cnn.com/2014/01/31/world/asia/great-barrier-reef-dump-approved] Pesticide use for agriculture has also found its way into the reef causing significant harm to the seagrass beds.[7. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-13/great-barrier-reef-report/2837758] The Great Barrier Reef is a very fragile ecosystem, and little changes have the ability to disrupt its functionality. The Great Barrier Reef is not only an important ecosystem but a large source of revenue for the country because of its massive tourism.

 

2011 flooding halts Australian coal mining and damages Asian industry

In January of 2011, 75% of mines were forced to close. The record breaking flooding caused a large amount of damage to the mines of Queensland. The floods affected 200,000 people along with Asian steam mills that rely on Queensland’s coal as its fuel source. Coal mining is vastly important to Queensland’s economy; Queensland is the world’s largest exporter of coal used in the making of steel. It was estimated that one billion dollars in coal was lost due to the flooding, which were caused by monsoons that hit the area.[8. http://www.theenergyreport.com/pub/na/floods-shut-75-of-australias-coal-mines]

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Denial to dam the Mary River

A landmark decision made in 2009, Environment Minister Peter Garrett prevented a proposition to dam the Mary River because of the huge environmental impact the dam would have on the social, economic, and environmental effects the area would likely experience.  “It is clear to me that the Traveston Dam cannot go ahead without unacceptable impacts on matters of national environmental significance,” Garrett stated.  The public agrees, since over 88% of the local electorate opposes the project.  The project would further threaten the existence of several aquatic species found in the river including the Australian Lungfish.  This decision demonstrates Australia’s commitment to preservation of biodiversity and protection of the environment. [9. Traveston Dam rejected animals saved, 2009 Stepanie Cox]

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Water thieves may face time in jail and fines up to a million dollars

Some areas of Queensland have been suffering from a 21-month drought, which has been causing a lot of problems with agriculture in the region.  Water has become scarce and fields have become bone dry. Water has became such a valuable commodity due to the drought that many farmers have been using unauthorized water from creeks and rivers. This is considered stealing.  These farmers who are caught using unauthorized water are penalized. They could either receive jail sentences or fines that range from $1 million per individual to greater than $2 million for corporations.  Landowners argue that they own the land that the creek goes through so they should have access to the water.  This has lead to frequent debates with lawmakers and has shaped Queensland’s water laws and regulations. [10. http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2013/s3947694.htm]

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Monsoon season brings relentless rains to Queensland

In January, 2012 Queensland faced some of its most devastating floods in memory for most of its residents.  The government has set up an appeals program to help the businesses and individuals that have been affected by the floods.  In January some regions of Queensland saw five days in a row of nonstop rain because of a prevailing monsoon.  This part of Australia often sees cyclones during the first few months of the year when monsoons are a common occurrence.  Monsoons are defined as the seasonal reversal of winds over the tropics.  Despite the devastation these storms bring they are often welcome because they often bring much needed water after long periods of drought.[11. http://www.qld.gov.au/emergency/news/features/seflood.html]

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Water becomes even more expensive

The creation of dams and water treatment plants in Queensland has resulted in a $49 per year increase of water bills for residents.  This increase is attributed to the maintenance of the dams and water treatment plants needed to sustain their current water consumption.  Many residents are in an uproar over this increase, however the government continuously ensures them that the increase is small compared to the $83 increase they could have been facing.  This $83 increase would have been present annually in Queensland if the construction of another dam happened.  Instead of owning the rising prices of water bills the government instead plays the blame game.  This demonstrates the scarcity of water in this region.[12. Dominic O’Brien 2013 http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/water-bills-to-rise-by-nearly-one-dollar-a-week-20130503-2iwla.html]

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Extreme Weather and its Effects on Water 

 

Sky New Weather predicted the weather outlook for 2013-14 and describes Australia and Queensland as always being a land of extremes due to the many droughts and flooding rains. Possibly the excessive amounts of fossil fuels used over the years could be a contributing factor to the increasing tropical cyclones and thunderstorms. Sky News Weather mentions how they recorded the hottest 12 months on record in 2013 in addition to the hottest summer on record last year(2012).  These temperature conditions have left 60% of Queensland still in drought, and they expect that Queensland will suffer from an above average number of thunderstorms.

 

Lake Water Reaching Low Levels

In Central Queensland the Menindee Lake Water levels have dropped to extremely low levels due to the on going drought so water will not be released from that lake any longer.  When water reaches this low level the South Wales government will gain control over the water movement rather than the Murray-Darling basin and authority system that are in control over the water systems usually.  South Wales government step in when water reaches low levels to set up precautions.  In this case South wales will maintain drought reserves for the people in the area suffering from the drought proving them with water.