As we all get used to the idea that weather patterns are definitely changing, nowhere is it more visible than in the huge 3 million square mile island continent of Australia. Known throughout the world as the “dry continent”, the last three years has seen unexpected and certainly unplanned for deluges that have brought major floods to almost every state in the country.
Well equipped Emergency Services have dealt with these issues but human lives have been lost and in one flood in Queensland half a million beef cattle drowned. Current floods raging in the Gulf Country in Queensland and Northern Territory will be having the same effect even as we are writing this story.
THE COMING DROUGHT
If we are seeing unseasonal flooding on an unprecedented scale, Regional Australia, largely involved in agriculture and mining know that the next drought is coming. The last one, lasting six years, had a devastating effect on agricultural production, both cropping and livestock, as well as destroying infrastructure.
By that we mean the drought affected Australia’s rural community in a number of ways. Country towns had to have water trucked in almost daily. Farmers lost their crops, and herds and livelihood.
The only thing that keeps farmers going in a drought is optimism. We call it hope!
Normally a drought for a year or two can be handled from an overdraft from the bank and the expectation that sooner or later it will break and a bumper production year will follow. Nobody expected the six year drought. Farmers who hung on tenaciously lost their emaciated livestock to the slaughterhouse or shot them when they became too far gone. The result of that is no income with the banks hovering around wanting their money.
There were a number of farmer suicides, the only way out when you lose all hope.
LEAN YEARS, FAT YEARS
The fact we’ll have droughts and floods is a historical fact. The levels of the same in a continuous rotation is potentially very dangerous not just to coastal Australia but to the whole of inland Australia. With 65% of Australians live in four coastal cities. 85% live within 40 kilometres of the coast. That’s right, the inland is virtually empty.
With the current rotation of floods and droughts, we can expect to see more movement to the coast as farmers give up and decide that farming is too risky! That could have a devastating effect on not just the Australian economy but also on the growing global population’s reliance on country’s like Australia to produce sufficient food and fibre.
THE SOLUTION … WATER MANAGEMENT
The study of the topography of Australia shows river systems which, if dammed, could retain the water that will enable huge areas of land, mainly used for livestock grazing turned into high production cropping land.
Back in 1944, almost 90% of the total land of Australia was put to very little use. Those huge areas of potential are mainly arid, barren and useless. They just need water security.
A gentleman called Bradfield, who built the Sydney Harbour Bridge, was no doubt inspired by the Hoover Dam, in the United States. He planned to turn rivers backwards so that floodwaters didn’t just disappear into the ocean but were retained.
In spite of Bradfield’s detailed plans,80 years later very little has been done to provide water security for Regional Australia. While politicians preach about jobs and growth, very little is being done to “drought proof the country”.
One idea was to create an inland sea. Large parts of Australia’s inland are below sea level. The idea would be to channel water from the southern ocean into that inland basin and thus create evaporation, precipitation and bingo, agricultural land that is well watered. That was an idea that was floated in 1944.
Now, climate change is making it even more obvious that the most important thing for governments to do is provide water security for the essential agricultural requirements of a growing global population. When we consider that Australia has only 26 million people (in a country the same size as the USA or China) with the inland virtually empty, the answer seems obvious.
WATER SECURITY … IT’S POSSIBLE
With today’s amazing equipment for tunnelling, earthmoving and the building of concrete structures, we can all see what can be done. You can’t ignore China’s Three Gorges Dam or the Millennium Dam on the Blue Nile. Drought proofing Australia would bring life to the country regions, dramatically improve the amount of agriculture production and processing and take the pressure off our capital cities!
If we can spend $ 60 Billion on tunnels to move traffic around the cities more conveniently for the millions of people who live there, we certainly should be able to spend at least that much on dams, tunnels and water infrastructure to bring Water Security for the inland.
More recently, Australian Pump Industries played a major role in shipping Australian built 6” diesel pumps by air freight to South Sudan in an effort to save Juba from massive floods. If an Australian pump company can do that, imagine what our government, with it’s funding, could do to bring Australia’s dry continent, currently flooded, to life.
Further information on this story is available from Warwick Lorenz, Managing Director of Australian Pump Industries, located in Sydney, Australia. Warwick is passionate about water security for Australia. We writes for both Australian and International publications. email@example.com