Flat White

The roar of waste

7 April 2022

4:00 AM

7 April 2022

4:00 AM

Watching the Burdekin Falls Dam with around six metres of water going over the spillway following recent rain in the catchment, we need to be aware that this is not a rare occurrence, nor is it an isolated occurrence.

As far back as 1875 there are records of the Burdekin River rising over eighteen metres in just a few hours and repeated news articles of water over the bridge at Inkerman from one to six metres above the bridge deck. Records of high river flows lasting weeks and months are common. Following a cyclone in December 1974 the river remained at flood height until April 1975. Similar huge flood events are common in other river valleys as we are presently witnessing in the Clarence valley in northern NSW.

In the case of the Burdekin and Clarence rivers, these flood flows can exceed five megalitres per second or almost half a million megalitres every day, which is sufficient to fill our oldest irrigation storage, Burrinjuck Dam, from empty every two days.

The roar of this cascading water is the roar of waste. The waste of a resource that will be needed in years of little or no flow in these rivers. It is also the roar of water that is destroying people’s lives and carrying sediment and nutrients that can damage the Great Barrier Reef.

We can avoid this flooding. We can store this water for later use. We can use it to produce cheap clean power and vastly increase productivity across our river Basins. We can with vision, practical planning, and several other dams use it to drought-proof most of central and western Queensland.

Why don’t we do it? Because state governments like New South Wales and Queensland have, for decades, failed to implement thoroughly researched plans for storage dams in many of our major river valleys. Mankind has yet to find a better way of storing and using excess water than the building of dams, but our governments have failed to plan for the future. They are too busy trying to stay in power.

Government expenditure in water conservation and hydropower returns both direct and indirect income to government for the foreseeable future. Importantly, the jobs generated are taxpaying jobs not taxpayer-funded jobs that grow when the government uses our taxes to subsidise so-called renewable energy in a failed attempt to limit climate change.

Conserving flows of water such as above in increased water storages is a win for the Government, a win for the environment, and a win for regional communities and the nation.

It is a course of action we must not just consider and talk about. We need to start work on building, if we are to have a productive future.

We could begin by increasing the dam wall height on the Burdekin Falls dam if we want a productive Australia and make this just the first step in drought-proofing Australia with the bonus of stopping destructive flooding.

We can stop the roar of waste and replace it with the roar of productivity, but only when we have men of vision and drive like engineers John Crew Bradfield (the Harbour Bridge) and Charles O’Connor (the Perth to Kalgoorlie pipeline), William Hudson (the Snowy Scheme) and politicians like Ben Chifley and Sir Earle Page who backed nation-building schemes. These people understood that our nation’s future rested on its ability to overcome hardship with the achievement of developments.

This generation needs to foster men and women with similar vision if we are to give our people hope again in a future with reliable and adequate water, abundant cheap power and without the destruction of recurring floods.

This is not difficult; it just needs a change of attitude and political courage.

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