Our water suplies are running out.
This figure is from the Water Corporations document ‘Water Forever – Towards Climate Resiliance’, 2009:
Experts are predicting the next world war will be over water….. a war over water within my lifetime (lets be generous and give me another 65 years). We could look back and say that we didnt know, but it wouldnt be true.
I am a firm believer in human ingenuity and its very likely that technology will come to the rescue yet again and dirvert us from the path of disaster. However, this doesnt mean that we should all just sit around twiddling our thumbs and waiting for all those incredible scientists and engineers to work it out on our behalf. Our excessive water use is causing a problem right now, just look at the Murray Darling Basin as just one of thousands of examples. Plus, I think it would be pretty great of us to give these great people a bit more time to work the problem out, this will undoubtably give us a better solution.
We are already looking at alternative supplies; pipes from wetter neighbours, recycling, desalination etc.
“Over the next 50 years, it is expected that existing surface water and groundwater sources will comprise an increasingly smaller portion of public water supply. As the climate dries the focus of new source development will continue to favour rainfall independent sources such as recycling and desalination.” (Water Corporation, 2009)
Climate change is a major consideration. Through a process being dubbed “future proofing” organisations are planning how to adapt to the changing climatic conditions. I find it so interesting that we have moved the focus from stopping climate change to adapting to it. So new “rainfall independant” sources are appearing more often in strategic planning documents for water supply.
A hugely popular one both in the Australia and internationally is desalination.
In my opinion desalination is not the most elegant of solutions.I believe that sustainable solutions work with the existing natural cycles. Are we solving a problem by creating another? How will its greenhouse gas emissions be managed? (an issue which caused climatic change and the reduced rainfall which led to the need for desalination.. )
Pwer supply (peak oil, coal industry decline etc) have been a pressing issue for quite some time and research and development focussed on this issue is far more advanced than the industry for water supply. So it is possible that it is far enough ahead to be able to solve this issue pretty quickly once desalination and the like kick off. Although the economic considerations seem to drag and holds back great technology because they are not cost effective (a very valid concern).
Perth’s Kwinana desalination plant is wind powered, although they could have easily gone with non renewable power and i’m guessing it probably would have been cheaper. Great work though :)
The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency of Western Australia) did some very extensive investigations into the environmental impact of the proposed desalination plants in Perth. The EPA’s document “Southern Seawater Desalination Project – Water Corporation, Report and Recommendations of the Environmental Protection Authority” of October 2008 states:
“The EPA has concluded that Environmental Quality Objectives can be met subject to the proponent complying with the recommended conditions which provide for the identification of trigger levels, monitoring, reporting and contingency measures. The EPA considers the effects on biota including marine mammals and benthic habitat relating to the construction of the intake and outfall structures should be limited in area and duration, and best practice design and management measures should minimise impacts.”
The EPA also supported the Water Corporations proposal to offset the native vegetation removed to built the plant and the damage to a conservation catergory wetland, and bestowed on them a long list of regulatory conditions.
The social impact which was not considered by the EPA of the location on a pristine beach which has high community value was mentioned a lot in the public consultation. I don’t know how much that was considered, I will atempt to find the planning decision (either the Town of Kwinana or the Western Australian Planning Commission). However either way, a desalination, no matter how urgent, will be placed on a beach close to a city – this will always cause the community some loss.
It seems unnecessarily ugly and disruptive in my opinion.
People need water (of course) so I’m not disputing the fact that we need to face this issue. I believe that we shouldn’t give up on being able to make real changes in the way we use the water we have!
We can use water as close to possible to its source (to avoid treatment, infrastructure and evaporation) by installing water tanks on all houses, developing using awesome water sensitive urban design techniques (follow up post to come on this!), standard water efficiency for our stuff, developing water recycling technology etc.
We can make it beautiful, elegant, and engaging instead of grey, damaging and boring. The solution for the long term has got to be something that mimics nature.