Water Journal : Water Journal May 2014
2From the President DID YOU EAT VEGETABLES DURING THE DROUGHT? Graham Dooley -- AWA President WATER MAY 2014 As I write, I have just returned from Ozwater'14, which this year took place in Brisbane. As ever, the event created a valuable platform for discussion and raised plenty to celebrate -- not least the Australian water industry's outstanding national capability. We will report in depth on Ozwater'14 in the next issue of Water Journal. In this month's column, I'd like to focus on the work being done by our rural water colleagues and on the water issues that they face. As an Association with a grand name, we need to spend more time immersed in this part of our industry. I'll start my column at the dinner table. I eat vegetables. Have you ever wondered why the supply from our Aussie farmers didn't stop during the worst drought of the last 150 years? The answer in our farming regions wasn't the use of desalination plants or urban water recycling projects. It was in the adoption of nation-wide, legislated water ownership and trading reforms that were carried out without fanfare and devoid of politics from 1994 to 2007 across all states and territories. During this period the legislation changed in each jurisdiction to allow: 1. Water entitlements in each our major 145 rivers to be quanti ed and capped so no more could be issued; 2. Water entitlements in each river to be bought and sold in the same way as land is bought and sold; 3. The annual water volume allocated to each entitlement prescribed by the responsible river manager to also be bought and sold in zones where the rivers were connected. The effect of this was that farmers who owned water entitlements and used the allocation to grow lower-value crops such as grass for dairy, or rice, made more money by selling their allocation to farmers upstream or downstream who grew vegetables that earned a higher price from the supermarket chains and fruit and vegetable buyers. The supply of vegetables to our tables never had a hiccup. Did you notice any shortages? I didn't, and I deliberately looked. Broccoli, carrots, lettuce -- you name it -- were always available at my local supermarket. Yet there was not a single word of this remarkable success story in the media! In parallel, the various water programs -- starting with the National Water Initiative in 2004 and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in 2012 -- have mobilised large funding streams to upgrade and modernise much of our rural (and some urban) water infrastructure, and the clever technology systems that support our irrigation economy. This has been a good outcome for our rural water cycles and has also promoted considerable innovation in parts of our non-potable urban water cycles. I will be personally disappointed if the National Water Commission (NWC) is dissolved and its functions folded back into the Commonwealth Departments, but I am pleased to have observed and been part of its terri c work since 2004. The NWC has had an enduring and positive impact on the "sustainable management of water" (AWA's mission). AWA greatly appreciates the effort and commitment made by the NWC Commissioners, leaders, staff and advisers. I only hope that the NWC's good work, particularly in the rural water market, will continue at the same high standard if it is dissolved and its functions allocated to a department or agency. My vegetable consumption needs a functional and ef cient water market!
Water Journal April 2014
Water Journal June 2014