Monday, March 24, 2008

Strategy for water survivial in Australia

Adelaide Advertiser (Australia): Recycled water, desalination, catchments and managing use. These are the four key categories identified by the State Government to ensure water is flowing out the taps in the future despite changing climates and an increase on demands.

Speaking this week ahead of World Water Day, SA Water chief executive John Ringham says the four categories combine to make an "exceptionally broad" strategy, borne out of many years of investigation rather than being a hasty response to the drought. He says the current conditions and onset of climate change have caused long-term water security to become an urgent issue but much of the work underway now stems from years of planning.

The Waterproofing Adelaide strategy, released in 2003, has provided a base which is now being fast tracked. "A lot of base work comes out of the Waterproofing Adelaide strategy that looked at securing Adelaide's water supplies for the next 20 years. Obviously what happened was the environment changed: nobody before about 2005-06 thought we would ever have had such a severe drought, the worst drought on record," he said. "That's forced us to think about what we had to do."

Increasing the storage capacity of the Mount Lofty Ranges, a desalination plant, increased use of recycled water and stormwater harvest were all touted in the Waterproofing Adelaide strategy as being possible water security solutions. Infrastructure now under construction will cause almost half of all the wastewater from Adelaide properties being recycled by the end of the decade. A desalination plant and increasing storage capacity has been fast-tracked to be in place early next decade.

Mr Ringham says the immediate problem with harvesting stormwater is there is very little to collect because of the lack of rain.

…Each 1000 litres of water weighs one tonne, which would need to be pumped across thousands of kilometres across Australia's outback. It would be far greater than the amount of energy needed for desalination, he said.

"It is more effective and efficient to source a local source of water than a pipe out from the far north of Australia," he said. "The energy requirements are enormous and it would require a number of new power stations to get the energy to get the water down here." Water conservation will also continue to play its part, he said.

"We have seen a significant reduction in demand and it has been maintained – the response of our customers to the restrictions has been tremendous," he said. "With these things in place, we are in a good position to move forward and have a much more secure water supply for both Adelaide and other parts of the state."

A "false color" satellite image of the Great Sandy Desert in western Australia, from Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper plus (ETM+) sensor. US Geological Survey, Wikimedia Commons

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