In the midst of the current severe drought and fire events there is one glaring missing commodity: water. What can be done to preserve this dwindling resource? A partial undoing of the sins of the past could help.
The NSW 2000 Water Management Act - and similar legislation in other states - saw water licences deregulated, ie, they could be held independently of the land by anyone and traded as a commodity. Previously they remained attached to landholdings and in a lot of cases were not fully utilised. The rationale behind the legislation was no doubt to see this resource fully utilised. This has happened at a rate of knots as these water entitlements become concentrated in the hands of those with the means to fully utilise them.
For example, I have always lived near the Namoi River and learnt to swim in it. When there was a good flow - and even in the absence of rain - that flow continued for some time. Now when pumps are turned on its level drops dramatically. No doubt similar stories could be told in other river systems.
A partial solution would be for government(s) to extend their current buy-back program to cover a percentage of these entitlements and compensate the holders. This would be a palatable time to do it as there is virtually no water to pump anyway. Say the market value was $2000 per megalitre. This would likely be welcomed by holders, banks etc at this time.
Of course there would be valid objections based on lost production, wasted investment in infrastructure, the cost of acquisition etc. But I don't see any other alternative. The deregulation proponents unfortunately failed to take into account that this dry continent could not cope with this deregulation. I think it would be money better spent than on more tunnels, stadiums and other facilities which are of no benefit to our fragile environment.
Water from Manilla to Tamworth
I note the comments made by various members of the Manilla community, in relation to the water being carted from their fill station to Tamworth. Their recent blockade I suppose was made in an effort to grandstand their cause without relating all the facts.
Manilla is part of the Tamworth Regional Council (TRC). I would think that if the legalities were properly looked at Split Rock Dam is within the TRC region and therefore should be available for resource sharing between Barraba, Manilla and Tamworth residents alike. The carting of water from Manilla to Tamworth is completely legal, and to my knowledge no law is being broken. Conversely I would question the legality of Manilla residents blockading and locking the public access to the fill station. The suggestion that all water is going to fill pools in Tamworth is simply here say, without hard fact to substantiate such claims ... and in any case is completely legal.
Council Water Policy and Procedures
It's time that TRC aligned its current water level restrictions policies so that they fully encompass Bulk Water Filling Stations.
For the exercise let just look at Manilla Level 3 water restrictions and Tamworth, Moonbi and Kootingal Level 5 restrictions.
Under Level 5, pools cannot be filled or topped up. Under Level 3 pools can be filled during 15 minutes of allowed hose time (domestic garden hose, not bulk water filling pumped hose). This appears to be the bone of contention, when reading the TRC Water Restriction policy and there is very little public information governing bulk water filling stations and end use of this water.
It seems that domestic water carters have open slather to sell our water to whomever requests it without any reference to water restriction policies.
Surely the policy should apply to these water carters? What happened at Attunga? When looking at being fit for the future, we need to have all towns and villages fully supporting the council's actions.
Referring to Editor's comments on Friday 3 January - 'now is not the time to reduce ourselves to an us and them argument' - this has come about because at the time of amalgamation TRC would not approve a Ward Structure, giving all communities a fair representation at council. Referring to your comments re the water levels in Split Rock, if it doesn't rain, wouldn't this water be better protected for the sustainability of the TRC region at large.
Tamworth may ask where all the water has gone?
Two thirds of water released in the past has never reached Tamworth intake!
A previous engineer and current Water Manager have (in the past) recommended the installation of a pipeline ... however these recommendations were rejected by council!
We have been in drought for seven out of the last eight years the only money we have received has been freight subsidies totaling about $6000.
Every time I send a e-mail to a politician they tell me the same thing about what loans they have and that leave it at that.
I hope they look after the fire victims better as week politicians are the problem for not looking after the park. We have now lost a lot over our old history.
I love this Sunburnt country
I love this Sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains.
But I've gotta tell ya mate, I like it better when it rains.
The countryside is dying and there's just no end in sight,
and just to rub salt in the wounds, the bush has caught alight.
The landscape is on fire from north of Brisbane to Geelong
And everybody's asking "where the hell did we go wrong?
But we can get through this one if we help each other out,
take care of your neighbour, that's what Aussies are about.
The rain is going to fall again , the good times will return
But living in Australia means at times it's going to burn.
So if you need a helping hand, just give a mate a call.
We're all here to help you out and catch you when you fall.
The RFS, the SES, the firey's, and police,
all put their lives upon the line to help to beat this beast.
So hats off to these heroes and thanks for all you do
And I hope when this is over, we can make it up to you!