Drought, rain, water & pollies – part 1

We’ve heard a lot from assorted politicians lately about water – this after a long break from the Alan Jones beat-up about turning the rivers inland.

Duncan has had a good rant, here.

Now it my turn.

I’ll start by getting a few FACTUAL rants out of the way before moving on to some solutions.

1. Politicians cannot make it rain.

To all of the idiots in the National Party, and in my case the state Liberal opposition who want more dams / reservoirs built: for goodness sake, shut up. You are being silly.

Any building program that started now would come to completion in 5 to 10 years. It might be a good thing to start planning now, but putting out press-releases about lack of building, on the day water restrictions are announced, is just a stupid cheap shot that achieves nothing productive.

For good solutions we need all political parties to stop taking shots at each other and work cooperatively. What a nice change that would be.

Jan-June_90-16.jpg

2. Privatisation is not going to help

By all likelihood, privatisation is part of how we got into the mess in the first place. The time lines vary a bit from state to state, but roughly speaking, about 15 years ago, state governments were strapped for cash. They stopped spending on major capital works. This was about when the next lot of water infrastructure should have started being built.

About 10 years ago, many state governments (and notably ours here in south Australia) started flogging off the management of the water infrastructure, with the continual mantra “the private sector can do it better”.

(Just how the private sector can run a public asset better is a bit of mystery: Government borrowings cost less than private, government departments don’t have to make a profit… but that’s a discussion for another day).

Anyhow, the private operators are hardly going to keep on the payroll the folks who do the trend monitoring and long term capacity planning. These are the folks who figure out that in 20 years we will need another dam, then figure out where it could be, start the feasibility processes, and eventually get the construction going. That all takes years – 5 to 15 years.

So, we have private operators who’ve sacked the long term planners, no long term planning in government, and about 10 years or so down the track we are starting to get in the poo.

Anybody surprised?

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Next part coming soon.

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