Restoration with vision

20 August 2009

The plight of the Lower Lakes and Coorong is something that is receiving a lot of attention currently as the system progresses towards collapse.  Clearly, the management strategies of the past have failed to maintain this as a stable system and efforts are being made to address this.

The major reasons for declining levels in the Lower Lakes and deterioration of the Coorong are the result of declining flows down the River Murray.  These are less than ten percent of the long term averages and the main reasons for this are a highly regulated upstream usage system and diminishing inflows due to in part climate change and in part to to the drought we have been experiencing.

The Government of SA is taking the view that the long term prospects are for a return to "normal" flows and that given time the status quo for this system can be restored.  This author begs to differ, taking the opinion that as Global Warming takes stronger hold on our regional weather, the prospects are for a continuation of current patterns.

In the background, our state population is set to rise and along with it a requirement to generate more electricity and to provide a guaranteed supply of fresh water.  Both of these needs are being treated as separate issues but this Author contends that the opportunity exists to dovetail several needs into the one package.

What is being proposed is the following in a nutshell:

a.     To dissociate ourselves from a dependence on the Murray River.

b.     To make the Lower Lakes a vibrant estuarine system.

c.     To restore the dynamics of the Murray Mouth and Coorong

d.     To build our electricity and water desalination needs on renewable energy.

e.     To make the necessary infrastructure investment to grow sustainably.

and to stop wasting public money on short term knee-jerk reactions that have no long term benefit.

What the SA Government is doing with water is a bit like someone on social welfare benefits.  It involves hunkering down and existing on the mere offerings of those who hand out the benefits.  Farmers are depressed with allocations down to historic lows.  Urban dwellers are asked to tighten their use more and more and our Government is going to bring in a new water system that will cost ten times what it takes to pump water from the Murray. RO needs carbon based energy to drive it and so the solution to the problem will make the problem worse.

This proposal has the potential to turn that all around.  Water could be produced for the same costs are it takes to move water at present and by the clever integration of electricity generation this cash-cow could drive the process.  Isn't it time for long term thinkers to take over where the head-in-the-sand paradigm has held sway but by the examples left for all to see are clearly failed policies.

Dr. Peter Marsh

To see the full proposal please visit the following link.