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Saturday, April 01, 2006

Sydney's Water Problems - You Can't Fill a Leaking Bucket!

Today's Blog is an extract from the most recent "Eucryphia" magazine, Number 83 – March 2006, published by the Robertson Environment Protection Society (REPS).

This is once more an item about the threat to the local environment posed by the proposal to drain the Kangaloon Aquifer. This issue is serious, but I am concerned that so little has been heard about it in recent weeks. So, tonight I am re-publishing an article by Leon Hall, and a comment by the Editor of Eucryphia, Lyndon Stanley.

You Can’t Fill a Leaking Bucket

by Leon Hall – REPS President

The Sydney Catchment Authority (SCA) wants to use a local underground aquifer to supply water to the Sydney region. This action could have a devastating effect on the farming community with the potential loss of their water supplies. It is also another SCA ecological disaster about to happen. <P>

Underground aquifers can be enclosed (geological water, no recharge) or can be connected to other aquifers and the surface with recharge sites. The Kangaloon bores drilled by SCA show that there is some recharge after test extractions. This could indicate a connection to the underground hydrology of our local area and our springs.

Obviously if massive amounts of water are extracted this will have the effect of sucking the water from elsewhere. Are our spring fed creeks safe? Are farmers’ water entitlements safe? We may not know until it is too late.

After a little bit of investigation (just scratching the surface) it was found that Butlers Swamp on Tourist road is classified as a Wetland of National Significance. This is where there are a number of test bores and the map shows a large diameter production bore on this site. Surely this wetland of National Significance deserves a better fate than a potential production bore and associated infrastructure? This Temperate Highland Peat Swamp on Sandstone is listed as an endangered ecological community under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 and is also listed as endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995.

Denis Wilson, a REPS member, has discovered an endangered plant growing within 50 metres of a bore. This is the Mittagong Geebung (

Persoonia glaucescens

) and information on this plant states that recent surveys have indicated that the species no longer extends to Fitzroy Falls or Kangaloon. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service are joint managers of this catchment land (since the Sydney Water Enquiry) and must also actively oppose these bores.

The problem faced by SCA is that Sydney’s dam levels are at record lows and action needs to be taken. At the recent Robertson meeting about the bores, Peta Seaton briefly mentioned that 18% of water distributed, is lost through leaking pipes. This is a massive waste and equates to more than one drop in 6 being lost. The action that needs to be taken by a responsible government is to fix this "leaking bucket" to secure Sydney’s water supply.

This could be done over time, progressively increasing the states revenue due to more water being available for use. There is also the opportunity to retrofit existing pipe systems to enhance the use of our water. Empowering Sydneysiders with their own water collection options within Sydney’s catchments is also needed now.

You can’t fill a "leaking bucket" even by trying to drain half the countryside. The precautionary principle appears to have been ignored here with another grab to try and fill Sydney’s "leaking bucket". New innovative ideas are being developed to use sea water (ECOS 122, Nov-Dec 2004, (CSIRO) The Aqua Dam) and recycled water very efficiently. By concentrating on restoring the integrity of the pipe infrastructure the government has time to see these new technologies come to fruition for Sydney’s use.

The only use I can see for the bores already drilled is for emergency bushfire fighting in their vicinity.

Please write your own letter of protest about this unsustainable and dangerous proposal. REPS will be writing to a number of people about this subject.

Editor’s Note:

The specific issue of using water from aquifers deep below our homes, as well as the larger issue of Sydney’s troubled water supply is clearly one that will be debated for some time to come.

Having spent most of my life in Sydney, receiving water that had been collected for me by Sydney Water – I am now in the position where I collect rain water for myself. This water is the cleanest, purest water I have ever seen and tasted from a tap, and with 70,000 litres of capacity, I never expect to exceed my supply. It occurs to me (and many others) that the simple solution to Sydney’s water supply problem is above our heads. If all new homes were designed to collect, store and filter water to provide for all the household needs, over time this issue would disappear.

Please send a letter with your ideas and opinions about this interesting and controversial issue. It will be published in the next edition of Eucryphia.

Editor – Lyndon Stanley,

Robertson Environment Protection Society

PO Box 45, Robertson NSW 2577

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