Australian Drought of the Century
Although the vast majority of Save and Conserve visitors come from North America and Europe, every now and again, someone from Australia drops in and visits this site. Makes sense - Australia is literally on the other side of the Earth from Albany, NY where I live and so I don't often write about Australian conservation.
But maybe I should be focusing more on Australia, home country of my all-time favorite golfer, "the Shark", and one of the driest continents in the world. Australia is dealing with a "100 year drought" - which is not nearly as rad as the "50 year storm". Anyway, the drought raises a host of interesting questions about resource scarcity in industrialized society. Chief among them is: "How can we best conserve, share and distribute dwindling supplies of water?"
Australian fresh water, typically not very plentiful in good times, is now in extraordinarily short supply. Australia is so parched that poisonous snakes are slithering into cities searching for some drink.
From the Independent Online:
Thanks to the drought, dams are drying up. One dam alone in New South Wales has lost a volume of water equivalent to Sydney Harbour, because of evaporation. River beds in bone-dry rural areas are empty and cracked. One newspaper yesterday carried a front-page photograph of a little girl jumping over a muddy trickle on her parents' property - all that remains of the once powerful Darling, Australia's longest river. The river is part of the Murray-Darling system, which feeds the country's food basket. The National Climate Centre warned that without rain, the rivers will soon run dry.
Yep - sounds like a drought to me.
Now some Australians, recognizing that they are in dire straits, are pushing the public to adopt water recycling programs. The idea would be to recycle and purify water from sewage. Sure, nobody wants to drink sewer water. That goes without saying. But again, this is a country in the midst of a crippling drought. Sacrifice is reasonable given the circumstances, isn't it?
Remember, this is a country running out of water:
The Queensland Water Commission forecasts that dedicated-use drinking water could run out by 2009.
Clearly, something has to give in Australia. They need to figure out a way to get more water, without going bankrupt in the process. Recycling and purifying water from sewage makes common sense. It happens to be much cheaper than desalinizing water, as a comparison. (I'm not sure, but my guess is that it would take less energy to purify and treat sewer water than it would be to desalinate water.)
It should be interesting to see what they decide to do about the water shortage. Will they allocate their resources and money wisely in order to meet demand? Or will they squabble and hedge and obfuscate? Given the recent report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, it looks like Australia will be a case study for other societies. Let's hope they can manage a tough problem the right way. Maybe we'll learn a thing or two and be more prepared to meet our own resource and energy challenges.