water supply, rainfall history and seawater desalination issues
Falling dam levels in recent years are ringing alarm bells in Sydney
about future water supplies.
This website by Warwick Hughes
email inward at sign warwickhughes.com will attempt to
objective data describing the history of all the factors involved in
understanding how Sydney has arrived at this position.
To quickly sum up;
For comments on CSIRO has claims that since
1950 NSW rainfall has been declining at 14.3mm per year.
- recent years of low rainfall and drought are no different to
several past low rain periods, we must understand climate history
because it will be repeated;
- no new dams have been built for over 30 years despite ever rising
population and demand for water, how sensible is that, expecting to
live off the foresight of previous generations forever ?;
- over recent decades areas of National Parks have expanded and it
has to be asked if potential new water catchments have been alienated
from use as water supplies;
- if the Government heeds the gloom & doom scenarios of
permanent drought and a hotter / dryer future Greenhouse world then
multi-Billion dollars of taxpayers money will be wastefully invested in
seawater desalination plants leading to permanent higher water
and demand restrictions.
Click on graphs for full screen versions
The media runs too many gloom and doom stories with green prophets
invoking greenhouse :"climate change" and linking this to :talking
of permanent dryer times ahead. Since 2002 there has been a
beating up of drought stories with the 2002 event exaggerated
as something unprecedented when it was just another cyclic El Nino
drought. Run of the mill storm events are also beaten up as
exceptional. The Cataract Dam 1904-2004 rainfall history
and recent times to be nothing exceptional. The blue trend is a 5
year rolling average.
|Graphic of dam levels
in Megalitres from Jan 98, Sydney Catchment Authority web site
http://www.sca.nsw.gov.au/dams/203.html A short history of
Sydney's water supply can be read at
http://www.sca.nsw.gov.au/dams/history.html and it is obvious that
droughts and periods of cyclic low rainfall have driven water
policy in NSW for over 150 years. In view of the obvious
realities of our rainfall history you would think water managers would
learn to plan future water supplies in periods of elevated rainfall.
Andrew Mitchell's site packed with graphics and stats on Sydney water
supply and dams.
points I am making contrary to the general media hype is that
Sydney catchment rainfall is no lower than several previous periods eg
circa 1994, 1979-84, 1934-42, 1904-1910.
quoted Tim Flannery (of "Perth will
die" fame) is even referring to
normal high rainfall events as "freak", to bolster his vision of
See Sydney rainfall page for more
must be very careful to separate
fact from fiction in all this media frenzy or NSW taxpayers will be
saddled with multi-$Billion desalination plants costs forever. More
rainfall data will be posted as it comes to hand
An example of recent media articles touching on Sydney water
issues is Paul Sheehan's 24 April 2005 SMH at;
CSIRO greenhouse climate model predictions of hotter/dryer
quoted to denigrate future dam options as though these models have a
track record of success.
In fact the best BoM models have a very poor track record
modelling rainfall and temperature only 90 DAYS ahead.
The water managers should have planned long ago for periods as dry as
|Demand and population
have steadily expanded to
supply, put together with a cyclic low rain period, presto the
stubbornly low dam levels.
This graphic is from
a NSW Parliamenty Briefing Paper No 4/2004, "The Future of Water
Supply" by Stewart Smith and presents annual water supply in gigalitres
(GL) (see units Table at page bottom. Stewart Smith's paper can be
To what extent has increased
areas of National Parks alienated new dam resources near Sydney ?
Of course there is a whole constituency promoting seawater
desalination, sellers of the technology, construction firms, water
managers will have new staff positions, career paths, overseas trips
and higher water prices must be more exciting for water managers than
boring old selling cheap dam water at cost plus.
There is secret wining & dining and general schmoozing of
policy makers by pro desalination interests. Who knows what
distortions are being presented by these salespeople.
Right now in May 05 I gather desalination proponents are preparing a
the NSW Govt.
I wonder if they are mentioning the effect rising energy prices will
have on future desal water cost.
I wonder if they are pointing out that as soon as water is made in
factories there will be water strikes.
Is anyone preparing a rational view of alternatives ?
In Perth and I suspect Sydney you can not get ordinary accounts of
rainfall histories and statistics into the media, at the same time Govt
water bureaux put out slanted biased information and of course these
Govt water authorities spend up hugely on advertising their spin on
issues in the media.
In Perth, slogans such as "our drying climate" and "independent of
rainfall" are all part of Govt pro-desalination spin blocking out
In Sydney the warmth in April was much reported on as something
exceptional and a harbinger of Greenhouse. In fact many NSW and
Australian met stations recorded similar hot Aprils going back to early
century and into the 19C.
Taken together with the standard media reporting of climate, weather,
drought, a warm month, Greenhouse, Green issues, it all amounts to
brainwashing of the public.
Perth has at least three other
options to avoid seawater desalination
but politicians have their minds made up, see below URL for
era.wa.gov.au web site.
Water Users sets out point by point how WA Govt mismanagement of Perth
water resources is at the root of our so called "water crisis".
Perth Water Users (PWU) illustrated 6 May submission to the ERA
Inquiry on Urban Water and Wastewater Pricing - can be read on pdf file
follow link under heading Submissions, to "Draft Report Submissions
New!"; for our September 2004 3 page pdf submission click on "Issues
Melbourne dam levels have also
caused concern recently and there are many similarities to Sydney with
the same over-reaction to lowered rainfall and same swallowing of CSIRO
Greenhouse climate modelling "hook line and sinker".
The public must come to realise that media reporting of all these
issues contributes to this extravagant policy experiment into seawater
We need politicians prepared to state the truth about rainfall history,
that current times we think are dry are similar to past cyclic lower
rain periods and that our dams have served us well in the past and with
the system prudently augmented by new dams and infrastructure, will
continue to do so into future centuries.
Back to http://www.warwickhughes.com/
Units Used to Specify Water Consumption and Storage
||one thousand Megalitres
||one million kilolitres
||one thousand kilolitres
||one million litres
||one thousand litres
|One kilolitre of water
||one thousand kilograms
||= one tonne