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Water saving is very feasible politics so we need to be on a war footing not at the urinal

by Dave Riley

It's not just because I live here but the latest news about Brisbane's water management program is fluid for thought.
Drought-conscious Brisbane residents have been issued another pat on the back after figures showed water consumption has reduced 47 per cent since the introduction of water restrictions in 2005...

The water consumption figures also illustrated the contributions made by businesses with an almost 35 per cent reduction in water use since the start of restrictions in May 2005. [SOURCE]

It can be done when the doing has to be done as Brisbane's catchment dams are still mere muddy shallow pools. Recent rains did add H20 but it won't be enough to allow the city to reverse to largesse usage.

So the city can still turn on a tap thanks mainly to the cooperative effort of the people who live here and a considered management plan.

Does this deserve a pat on the back? Yes -- but there are other issues in play. This exercise in conservation indicates what could also be done in regard to any other element related to resource management.

I'm sure that Brisbane can reduce its mains water consumption even more as various ab hoc rainwater tank and grey water recycling measures kick in. But that's the case, you see: ab hoc. This city has not even begun to plan its water usage, water transport, catchment and storage . The change so far registered is primarily a voluntary exercise in reduction with occasional threats(and tragically a disastrous dam project on the Mary River as well as stop gap water recycling measures).

Fostered by good PR -- it does suggest what else could be done in regard to other issues, especially electricity, commuter travel and garbage. People want to be part of such a major project as saving their corner of the planet because we happen to be facing an emergency.

So if Brisbane can slash water usage what about the other parameters we could tackle? And if we can or could tackle them aggressively -- why aren't we?

Why can't we move commuter travel to public transport on a massive scale? What would be required in terms of motivating the shift? Then what infrastructure changes could be generated to consolidate and support that change?

The water situation was -- and still is -- an emergency. This city -- the whole of South East Queensland --is running dry. Do we have to assume that an emergency has to arise before action is drastically taken?

Brisbane's major advantage is that exercises like the water one can work because it is the largest municipality in Australia. So the scale to fiddle was already there and while I'm not advocating council amalgamations as a standard, the fact that the city could intervene at a large level of demographics and 'community' suggests what could be done at state and federal level if the will, method and guts were in there to harness.

So can we combat climate change? You betcha -- but only if we treat it as an emergency -- which it is!

Unfortunately at this election -- even the main stream green perspectives on offer don't do that. We're caught in a crude game of upmanship which has served to obscure the bottom line actions we need to take because piece meal panaceas are plaid off against one another. It's a green urine pissing competition.

And no party with elected representatives -- including the Greens -- is willing to face up to that reality. We need to be on a war footing not at the urinal.

So if water saving is very feasible politics we have to make it that renewable energy production, transport and every other carbon and methane marker you can think of is dealt with using very feasible politics .

2 Com:

Peter Boyle | November 10, 2007

"The current drought, exacerbated by global warming, has shown that current levels of water use are completely unsustainable in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent. Excessive water use, especially by heavy industry and water-intensive agribusiness, is causing irreparable damage to our fragile ecosystems and creating chronic water shortages..."

Download Socialist Alliance's new water policy here

SA member | November 10, 2007


The Problem
The current drought, exacerbated by global warming, has shown that current levels of water use are completely unsustainable in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent. Excessive water use, especially by heavy industry and water-intensive agribusiness, is causing irreparable damage to our fragile ecosystems and creating chronic water shortages.
Conventional free-market economics aims to solve this problem by putting a price on water and allowing it to be traded
by those who can afford to purchase it.
This approach allows governments to ignore the real challenge of conserving water properly and rationing its use according to need. Trading in water encourages speculation and the most profitable rather than the most sustainable and socially just uses. It leads to poor farming practices and increased prices for residential use.
The National Water Initiative has this approach. It is also insufficiently funded to achieve the wholesale conversion of water infrastructure and reduction in water demand that the ecosystems along the Murray-Darling basin need to recover.

Our Solution

A serious water conservation policy has to target the big industrial and agricultural water users. Currently the lack of water conservation by industry and agribusiness means that the efforts of householders to conserve water are being wasted.
The Socialist Alliance says that water is not simply a commodity or an input into industry and agriculture but is the central element of our ecosystems. Instead of market-based approaches we advocate an all-round plan for water sustainability based on a thorough scientific assessment of rivers, wetlands and water tables.
The knowledge of Indigenous communities is an essential part of making that assessment and developing sound proposals for water conservation.
In the country, measures to preserve normal water flows in rivers and wetlands and implement low-input sustainable farming practices are essential. In the cities, we need to reduce water waste and start harvesting storm water and recycling waste water.
There is enough water for everyone if comprehensive conservation measures are adopted and its use is allocated fairly.
Such an approach will also remove the need to build further large, environmentally damaging, dams.
To achieve the goal of water sustainability, public ownership and democratic, accountable management of water resources is essential. Unless the water supply is publicly owned, the profit motive will always disrupt scientifically-based water conservation measures.
No privatisation of water
No privatisation of water and water infrastructure (dams, water pipelines, pumping stations). Where these have already been privatised, they should be returned to public ownership
No public-private partnerships for water projects. All water projects to be 100% in public hands.
No water trading
Establish water allocations for each catchment and region based on the assessed needs (scientific, environmental, agricultural/industrial, domestic) of that area
No trading of water “rights” for speculative purposes
End schemes for trading between regions, such as the pipeline being built to Melbourne from the Goulburn Valley

Create an all-round water conservation plan
a. In the country
Build irrigation pipelines to save water evaporating in open-channel irrigation areas
Promote and fund conversion to drip irrigation wherever practicable
Reduce water extraction rates from groundwater systems until depletion ceases
Stop land clearing and logging in important water catchments to preserve water quality. Increase funding to land
clearing prevention services
Implement plans to restore water catchment areas and halt the damage done by land clearing, erosion and mining..
Prioritise the replanting of native vegetation in damaged catchment areas
Fund education and appropriate assistance for farming communities to move to lower water-use crops and farming practices
Phase out water-intensive monoculture crops in climatic regions which remain unsustainable
In urban areas
Improve urban water conservation by providing grants to subsidise installation of water tanks, grey water systems, and dry composting toilets
Recycle water for appropriate industrial and outdoor use
Enforce conservation measures on industrial and commercial water users
Require sustainable water use planning for all new industrial, commercial and agricultural developments
Establish comprehensive water efficiency standards for appliances
Use desalination, which consumes vast amounts of energy, only as a last resort
Oppose the building of desalination plants unless they use renewable energy and brine discharge is avoided (for
example by producing commercial salt instead of waste brine)
Restore adequate river flows
Establish adequate, scientifically based, flow targets for all river systems
Use the water made available by conservation measures to restore flow levels in rivers and wetlands to a level sufficient to sustain the river ecosystem in its natural state or as close as can be scientifically determined Buy back water allocations to increase flows further if conservation measures are insufficient. If necessary increase funding for buying back water allocations
Fully protect the rivers of northern Australia in order to prevent a recurrence of the Murray-Darling disaster
Full support to affected communities
Provide financial assistance for transition, including relocation and retraining, to regional communities where farming
and other activity is stopped or severely curtailed by water conservation measures and/or ongoing drought and climate change
Assist rural communities to establish sustainable farming practices to maintain national food supply
Increase funding to Landcare to provide employment for farmers displaced by water conservation measures and climate change

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