LETTER: Blow-in Enviro Nazis – hands off our water!

Sir – I was disgusted by a recent presentation to Council on the Water Smart Program. It is supposed to be a forerunner to the setting up of a group to draw up water rules for our community, whether we want those rules or not.

 

I was both alerted and disgusted by the inaccuracies and blatant untruths that smell of an agenda not necessarily in the interest of our town, our homes and our community. As much as I support the efficient and clever usage of water and most aspects of the current water smart program I cannot support what amounts to a back-door attempt to inflict rules that will affect the very fabric of our lives here in The Centre.

 

There is an imported environmental agenda at play, one revolving around an imported / blow-in Enviro Nazi mentality whose basic philosophy is that if there are water restrictions in Melbourne then there should be restriction here, notwithstanding that we are some 3000 kilometers distant, and that we have the largest water supply of any city in Australia.

 

It’s really unfortunate that the intentions of this well meaning program appear to have been hijacked by a few who in a religious-like environmental fervor, feeling a burning necessity to sacrifice something to the Gods of the Environment. They have your patch of grass, your roses and the town’s oasis style amenity directly in their sights.

 

The elected members of Council made it very clear to the organisers of this group that they would not accept anything more than water advice, not rules or enforcement. Yet some  involved with this organisation have made it very clear in ongoing social media comment  that they wish to establish and have enforced a set of water usage rules. They hope to achieve this by back-door regulatory methods that do not require input and approval from our normal democratic processes.

 

The citizens of this community cannot allow rules that affect the very basis of our life and future here to come into being without thorough public debate based on fact.  Facts like water is not a “finite” resource as stated in their opening verse, as every drop of water that ever was on earth is still here! Alice Springs does not have a cap on its potential size. We do not have a cap on how much water our community can use. We have enough water to support a much larger town with a large, irrigated agricultural precinct, for a couple of hundred years without recharge!

 

Engineers like to claim they don’t know whether the Mereenie field recharges. This is simply for convenience, given no effort has been made to prove or disprove it. All the surrounding fields recharge including the massive Great Artesian Basin not so very far to the south and which we could easily tap if it ever became necessary.

 

So we would be pretty safe in assuming that the Merreenie field also recharges, which would give it a never ending life at appropriate harvest levels. When Alice was established there was nothing more than a few springs and rainwater from the roofs. Did that constrain its development? No, it didn’t! As more water became necessary we went out and found it, just as we will in the future.

 

More Furphies: native plants use less water! Another completely inaccurate statement, one that has already been to the detriment of our town’s gardens and overall amenity. Why? While there are few suitably attractive species native to this area that give value for money /water, there are many exotics that do far better. The term native has been used much too broadly: a gum tree from WA is no more a native than an olive from Spain. Yet we’ve filled our town with ugly, ineffective, unsightly and – if you want any growth – water guzzling WA gums!

 

Yet another misleading statement: “We use double the amount of water to anywhere else”! Well of course we do! We are drier than most other places, receiving a tiny amount of their rainfall. I think that means we do pretty dam well, doesn’t it? Our yards, our gardens are part of our homes, part of our living amenity, part of creating habitable living conditions in this very hot very dry part of the world. Without these areas that bring liveability to our homes many simply wouldn’t stay, and we would see a gradual decline of our town.

 

What can we do to be water smart? We can start by recycling the enormous amount we waste in sewage. The fact that more than half of what we pump is simply let go to waste in this way is ridiculously wasteful. We can also assure considered water usage by the simple means of always charging the consumer the true cost of production. It is beyond time we had an independent assessment of PAWA management use / misuse of our community’s single most valuable asset, the Merreenie aquifer / borefield. I suspect their enthusiasm for the “Water Smart” program stems from a wish to sidestep the large capital input required to allow re-charge spelling of the Merreenie bores.

 

This in turn means pumping from ever deepening levels, which is ever more costly. According to early engineering reports on the Merreenie aquifer, leaving it dry for long periods can and more than likely will lead to solidification of the aquifer.

 

In short we are possibly vandalising our town’s greatest asset! It is also the reason the language around the Merreenie Water has shifted to “mining water” as opposed to harvesting because mining means you don’t have to take responsibility for preserving the aquifer.

 

Steve Brown

Alice Springs

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7 Comments (starting with the most recent)

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  1. Adriana
    Posted December 1, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    The science and research behind Alice Water Smart is not naive! Alice can be a leader in Australia by choosing to manage water cleverly. Well done, Water Smart.

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  2. Les Seddon
    Posted November 29, 2012 at 10:16 am

    Thank you Councillor Brown for sharing your concerns regarding the Community Water Rules and for drawing attention to some popular water myths in Alice Springs.
    Alice Water Smart presents an opportunity to make water saving choices without changing our Territory lifestyle and recognises that it is cheaper to save water now rather than pay for new water sources. The many projects that comprise Alice Water Smart offers opportunities for all Alice residents and organisations to participate. Typical water savings of 44% have been found for over 700 households through smart water efficiency measures that do not result in barren gardens or other lifestyle compromises, and save us all money!
    The “Community Water Rules” arose due to community feedback and concerns over many years, about water use in Alice Springs. They are supported by Alice Water Smart to ensure the community can have their say.
    The “Rules,” or whatever the community decides they should be called, will be voluntary. How they are implemented will also be something for the community to decide. They are not, and will not be mandatory. The community consultation process underway now will determine a set of guidelines for how all of us can be smart about our water use.
    As a member of the Alice Springs Water Advisory Committee (ASWAC), I am sure Councillor Brown would be familiar with the management of water in Alice Springs.
    Based on science, public consultation and ASWAC’s guidance, the Department for Land Resource Management establishes a “cap” on the amount of water Power Water Corporation can extract each year for public use. The cap is based on maintaining a sustainable yield to ensure the current supply from the Mereenie Aquifer lasts for as long as possible taking into account the town’s needs.
    We are fast approaching this cap and the future options are to invest in more costly capital infrastructure to bring other sources online, or to do some work in demand management.
    The Consortium Members of Alice Water Smart including Local, Territory and Federal Governments and community organisations all share the belief that it is sensible and responsible to address demand management, rather than increasing the cost of living. The water savings identified and implemented so far by residential and business participants in the program shows that reducing water consumption and costs of living is achievable in Alice Springs.
    One of the many projects in Alice Water Smart includes upgrading Alice’s existing Recycled Water Scheme, with construction having started on new distribution pipelines to get better quality recycled water to new irrigation customers south of The Gap.
    We look forward to more community input into the Community Water Rules at our third public workshop on Tuesday 4th December, from 6.30-8.30pm in the Andy McNeill Room at Council. You can also have your say on the Community Water Rules via our online survey at http://www.alicewatersmart.com.au
    Les Seddon
    Project Manager
    Alice Water Smart

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  3. Hal Duell
    Posted November 28, 2012 at 8:47 am

    To “Water Smart – please lose the word “rules”. Easily done, and, if done, so much of the criticism coming your way will evaporate like the water in the sewer ponds. It’s not like there are no options. Why not guidelines?
    And there are rules aplenty already. For instance, you’ll find them in building codes relating to dual-flush toilets and smart shower heads.
    The message of the importance of water in our crowded, warming world, a world in which far too many people have either no access or restricted access to clean water, has been delivered and, mostly, taken on board. Or if not fully taken on board, even the most recalcitrant can’t say they haven’t heard.
    I suggest the coming increase in our water bills will do a lot of your work for you.
    I agree with Cr Brown when he says the use of the term “native” as applied to plants has been overused. It’s a mixed bag out there, and everything is a native to somewhere. Including us.
    Two more suggestions: If you are serious about getting the Town Council to join you in your meetings and discussions, don’t schedule them for nights on which Council has for decades been holding their public meetings.
    And, don’t be too quick to criticise Council for watering some of our public spaces during daylight hours. Vandals simply love kicking over pop-up sprinkler heads when they find them at night, and their replacement can be a hundred dollars or more, each.
    Private residences are another matter. I doubt if any sand-hills will form at anyone’s front door, or rose bushes die, by restricting sprinklers to, say, from 4pm to 7am.

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  4. Posted November 27, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Yes Mister Brown I did read your every word that you were good enough to write before I posted my naive comment. More to come in the morrow.
    David Chewings aka THE lone dingo

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  5. Steve Brown
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 6:18 pm

    Did you actually read what I wrote before you made that naive comment Dave? How on earth did you arrive at “no environment” from what I’ve written? I think perhaps your comment relates more to the good old-fashioned politics of envy than anything meaningful. A vigorous economy, a happy, well fed and affordable housed population surrounded by a comfortable liveable sustainable environment are the goals I’m after Dave, not the sacrifice of our town to the blindly naive beliefs of a few Loopy Left Environmentalists who want to save the world from the rest of us! “Yeh Dave”, I’m about saving us from them!

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  6. Posted November 27, 2012 at 4:25 pm

    No environment means no money Steve. There is a little bit more to life than just financial security.
    David Chewings aka THE lone dingo

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  7. Dianne
    Posted November 27, 2012 at 5:34 am

    Quite so Steve. The $15m being spent on this program could be better deployed at Old Timers or any other project that actually benefits the populace.
    My particular favourite was the setting up the “neighbourhood watch” so that neighbours can “dob” each other in if they use too much water.

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