Distorted science in case for unnecessary seawater desalination projects

Compare the Govt propaganda further on to this actual rainfall for Mundaring which shows rainfall increasing slightly from the low period in the mid 1970′s and 2007 rain since start of May has been average. Click here for larger chart.
Mundaring rain historyNote, graphics updated 2 Nov.
The Western Australian Government through its various bureaucracies has opted for seawater desalination to solve Perth’s supposed water crisis. Read how obvious available natural water sources are ignored and basic science such as rainfall history has for years become the subject of lies, spin and propaganda, now that desalination is “the chosen way”.

Two examples of recent “lies, spin and propaganda” will convey the flavour.
Full page press adverts on July 10 2007 carried the large graphic titled “Why we can no longer rely on the rain” with a sloping blue line indicating decline. A line drawn in with no scientific basis.

Compare the Govt propaganda below to this actual rainfall for Mundaring which shows rainfall increasing slightly from the low period in the mid 1970′s and 2007 rain since start of May has been average.

In May the WA Premier made amazing anti-rain statements in Parliament showing the extent to which senior Govt figures are fooled by the years of propaganda.
This wet season May to Oct rain in Perth dam catchments has been just above normal to end August.

Edit added 2 Nov, above sentence could be amended to read “…. end October.” instead of end August.
Take a look a 32 years of wet season rainfall down the full length of Perth’s water supply catchment and decide for yourself if the WA Govts constant bleating about “our drying climate” reflects reality.
In my opinion the WA Govt has been lying for years about rain trends to justify their foolish and wrong policy excursion into hugely expensive, high impact seawater desalination.

Other relevant links.
Colossal Govt. waste of free rainfall
August 7th, 2007 by Warwick Hughes

Perth is not running out of water, water is running out of Perth
August 7th, 2007 by Warwick Hughes

Seawater desalination questions
August 7th, 2007 by Warwick Hughes

Australian Government understating Perth catchment rain
August 22nd, 2007 by Warwick Hughes

15 comments to Distorted science in case for unnecessary seawater desalination projects

  • Lizi K

    We have exactly the same issue in Victoria. The Bracks & Co government and media have constantly lied about a supposed “long term drought” when in reality Victoria had 1 year of bad drought in 2006. In addition we were told it was the worst in a thousand years, when infact is was only the THIRD worst of the century….not even as bad as 1982.
    See here:
    www.bom.gov.au/web01/ncc/www/cli_chg/timeseries/rain/0112/vic/latest.gif

    Victoria is now going to spend $3.6 billion building de-sal plants and pipelines when all they needed to do is build the Mitchel River dam for $0.5billion, which was planned in 2000 but was cancelled by Bracks for religious resons.

    The Vic government has knowingly and deliberatley created the water cris. And now they lie about rainfall patterns to cover their buts.

  • From my perspective in Perth I only know of Andrew Bolt talking common sense in the media re Vic water supply issues. Maybe there are others.
    His article “Dam me Minister”
    www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,22139612-25717,00.html

  • Beachgirl

    It has struck me that the Kwinana desalination plant (KDP) has in fact become a “Trojan Horse” assisting the introduction of large scale seawater desalination to the Eastern States, where of course the bigger contracts will be. I am sure our policy makers in Victoria and NSW just accept that the KDP was fully justified. State Govt water policy people seem totally sold on the CSIRO gloomy rainfall predictions, now I see the BoM is saying the drought will go on and most States have aligned with Green anti-dam positions. With Perth turning to desal a few years ago, the case for desal in the east is pretty much won before the desal salespeople have to start their wining, dining and general schmoozing. Another factor that convinces me in this idea is that the proposed second WA desal plant near Bunbury is estimated to be over twice the cost of the KDP, suggesting to me that the desal company cut their price on the KDP to get a foothold and will make up those losses on later contracts. Much useful rain is going to go to waste in years ahead unless the BoM and the media improve their reporting of rain.

  • VG

    It’s interesting that antarctica has probably reached record extent september 8, 2007 and appears to still be going strong
    arctic.atmos.uiuc.edu/cryosphere/IMAGES/current.365.south.jpg
    but this has not been reported in the site itself or the medis. They haven’t even bothered to adjust graph to fit increase. Compare to artic decline!

  • Philip_B

    Perth dams are well on the way to being the fullest at this time of year for a number of years. Rain is forcecast for the next week. So it will be interesting to see where this graphic is in a weeks time.

    www.watercorporation.com.au/D/dams_storage.cfm?uid=3506-8538-5661-1132

  • Re 4. Yes VG, in our IPCC world there is very little media on climate that is not slanted. Who would have thought 10 or 20 yrs ago that a simple basic issue such as rainfall would become the subject of spin and lies.

    Re 5, yes Philip_B, Perth dam levels are recovering well this wet season with average catchment rainfall from 1st May till now. But just think, if catchments were managed as they were in the mid 1990′s, inflows could have been doubled.
    Measure on the left of the dam levels graphic what that means for extra seawater desalination plants at a $Billion investment per 45 GL of ann water output.

  • The New York Times mentioned the Perth desalination plant in an article in April 2007 (“THE CLIMATE DIVIDE; Wealth and Poverty, Drought and Flood: Reports From 4 Fronts In the War on Warming”). [They have since split the article into four online pages and moved it from Science to Health] Perth article. The first part of the “4 Fronts” was Malawi – another case of political warming. I wrote a page examining Malawi at www.appinsys.com/GlobalWarming/Malawi.htm. Adequate rainfall is occurring and their agriculture is booming.

  • Thanks for the NY Times ref Alan, in May the BBC ran a similar tissue of exaggerations. Articles that press the right Green buttons travel faster than a speeding bullet.

  • Philip_B

    The BBC’s bias is particularly bad. Today they are runing the NW Passage is ice free for the first time since records began, but of course no mention of the SH sea ice at its greatest extent since records began. Ref: Cryosphere today.

  • David Bennett

    The real reason for the “artificial” water crisis is the comming “privatisation”, in reality THEFT of Australia’s water supply. A few years ago I read in the international financial press, and on the Internet, that a global European based water company which “owns” and controls much of the water supply systems in the UK, and parts of western Europe, was keenly interested in “privatising” Australia’s water.

    To make this more profitable the price of water needs to be raised to consumers, and a way to do this is by having a crisis, adopting expensive energy intensive projects like desalination, centralising control of water resources etc, etc. Thus the moves in Queensland to have the state government take control from local councils, and amalgramate shires.

    Ignoring the simpler and cheaper options is explained by this desire to actually greatly raise th cost of water.

    They even want to make landowners pay a “tax” for rain that falls on their proprty which they collect themselves in dams. The governments will also cry poor and claim they don’t have enough money for the required infrastructure improvements to deal with the “water crisis” and will use this too as a lever to justify the sale, “fire sale”, of the water assets of the nation to private enterprise, who will step forward as saviours with the right project just in time. It’s all well planned and the various details of scams and crisis outlined on this website are just the pieces of the big picture jigsaw puzzle.

    Privatisation is theft, and it is all about buying (stealing) our national infastructure and then making us pay for it for eternity. Remember public utilities are intrinsically natural monopolies, no matter what spin doctoring is put on it to make it appear that thre is some real competion as in the electricity and telephone networks. Capatalism loves a monopoly and hates competition. All the talk to the contrary is just a smoke screen.

    You are about to be mugged for your water supply Australia, and the “water crisis” is just another trick to set you up for the kill. Very few politicians really know what is going on, fewer still care. Greed is king!

  • Douglas Hoyt

    Governments are the ultimate monopolies.

  • There is much truth is what you say David and yet the situation in detail is more complex. The move to increasing seawater desalination for Perth certainly has elements of defacto privatisation about it. There is much secrecy and I am not aware of many aspects of the WA Govt deal with the French company Degremont.
    The vital elements affecting water policy all over Australia as I see it are the following and let me generalise a little.
    Growth in demand in all the cities.
    The last supply dam put in decades ago.
    For 25 years Govts have saluted Green opposition to new dams.
    In the case of Perth, the Govt decided not to stand up to Green opposition to touching catchment bush, which of course locks us into a situation where catchment yields have been declining for over a decade. So defacto dams are being decommissioned.
    Post 2000 cyclic downturn in rainfall exaggerated by Govts and there has developed a near national hysteria about drought.
    Overpromotion of pessimistic CSIRO greenhouse modeling of future rain trends which seem to be swallowed hook line and sinker by Govts and policymakers, academics etc.
    In Eastern states there is media propaganda about the need to drink treated sewage.
    In the case of Perth my opinion is that in a belated response to low dam levels of 2001 and influenced by the above factors, the Govt made this policy leap into seawater desalination. Perth policy has also been affected by populist but very expensive arm waving proposals to bring Kimberley water the huge distance to Perth. In the 2005 State election, the opposition leader promoted a Kimberley canal scheme which ended up doing his campaign harm.
    All this against a welter of opinion saying water costs had to rise.
    Remember too that Perth was the “bellwether” major desal project for Australia, I have referred to it as a “Trojan Horse”, because Perth desalination policy is assumed to be justified and is much quoted by Eastern States water authorities when looking at the desal option.
    The policy switch to seawater desal has in Perth been paralleled by a blizzard of Govt spin and propaganda in the media trivialising rainfall at every opportunity. For years now the Govt mantra has been, “our drying climate”. Of course the Govt spends millions of $ in media and it has been impossible to get facts about rainfall into mainstream media. Note above my new graphics with 2007 rainfall extended through October to the end of our normal runoff season.
    Of course David all these multi Billion dollar moves into seawater desal represent a form of creeping privatisation.
    Yet in the case of Perth, a local consortion Agritech has proposed a very good project to treat weakly saline water now wasted from Wellington Dam near Collie.
    www.agritechsmartwater.com.au/
    The Govt has turned itself inside out in contortions to avoid using this win, win, win proposal.
    Not to be confused with the larger Agritech proposal to drain saline waters from the wheatbelt to the coast, described here.
    www.agritech-hydropower.com.au/
    This solution to a huge and growing wheatbelt problem could as a byproduct produce by RO a large amount of potable water for Perth and is likewise not favoured by Govt.
    An interesting Australian example of privatising water is the huge growth of Cubbie Station water storages in the 90′s.
    www.warwickhughes.com/cubbie/
    Cubbie storages capture river flows on a giant scale in the northern Murray-Darling Basin just before they leave Queensland and pass into NSW.
    I am preparing another short report describing Perth catchment rainfall to end of October for promulgation next week.

  • BS Buster

    Just to try and help further expose the spin the WA Govt and their beaurocracies are putting on the rainfall situation in the Perth region take a look at the WA Water Corporations own web site where they provide the rainfall at each of the Perth Dams. www.watercorporation.com.au/D/dams_rain.cfm?uid=2510-5519-1574-3312 This clearly shows that up until the end of October all the dam catchments had above average rainfall with Serpentine dam being 20% above average. I specifically exclude stirling dam from this comment as the figure published for recorded rainfall must surely be incorrect and is suspected to be divided by the percentage of the dam capacity that is allocated to the metro supply as this does not correlate with all other the other BOM measuring sites in the region.
    The Water Corporation, and also the BOM for that matter, when discussing Perth rainfall, all refer to the recorded and average for the Perth Metro measuring station which was conveniently moved in 1992-1993. If you stand back when looking at the annual rainfall timeseries graph for this “station” it is obvious that there is a step change downwards in the numbers at the point where the station was moved and that the new location is recording significantly lower rainfall than the old site. Yet they continue to use the long term average which is heavily weighted by records from the old site due to the number of years it was used. Using the BOM methodology “Perth” will only have an average rainfall year when it is actually much wetter than average. This can also be further substantiated by looking at the results from other BOM measuring sites throughout the Perth Metropolitan region. It is also worth noting that even though Water Corp, BOM and the Press all pushed the line that 2006 was the driest year on record for “Perth”, in reality this was not the case for most of the BOM measuring stations in the region. 1940 and 1969 also figured prominently as driest years on record. (There wouldn’t happen to be a roughly 30 year cycle in here somwhere would there)
    Recently one of the older more experienced duty weather forcasters at the Perth BOM was heard to admit that he was “very surprised” when he had just found out that the Perth dam’s rainfall was above average. The BOM had before that been pushing heavily that Perth was having another “below average” year. All other metro sites were looking very much on average but the tunnel vision was obviously centred on the “Perth Metro” site with it’s distorted long term average.
    Why won’t the Press expose all the BS from the Water Corp? because of the significant amount of our taxpayers money they are spending on advertising in their newspapers and on TV. This advertising seems to have increased significantly in recent times and in my opinion is basically aimed at giving themselves a pat on the back and camouflaging the incompetence within their organisation.
    Keep up the good work Warwick

  • Philip_B

    Water in Perth dams as of today is 65 gigaliters more than this time last year.

    According to the water corporation 168 gigaliters is available for use. So last year at this time available water in the dams was 103 gigaliters, and in the last 12 months we have seen a huge 60% increase in available water.

    Given the press coverage of our water ‘crisis’, you’d expect a 60% increase in available water would be news. The fact it’s not, illustrates how much of our so-called news is propaganda decorated with a few convenient facts.

  • I have an update brewing Philip_B but will add one point quickly. WaterCorp have said in press reports they have been putting some product from the Kwinana Desal Plant into Canning Dam.
    So until WC give us a sound public accounting of all the components (ground water variations, now desal, other water trading) affecting their dam levels graphic, we can not be exact about how much runoff has contributed.

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