Drought Proofing a Dry Continent

Guest essay by Viv Forbes

Earth is a blue watery planet.

70% of its surface is covered by oceans of salt water, some of which are extremely deep. These oceans contain about 97% of Earth’s water. Another 2% is locked up in snow, ice caps and glaciers. That leaves just 1% of Earth’s surface water in inland seas, lakes, rivers and dams. We have plenty of water, but not much to drink.

In addition to these vast surface water supplies, water vapour is the fourth most abundant gas in the atmosphere, after nitrogen (76%), oxygen (21%) and Argon (1%). Moisture in the atmosphere varies from almost zero over deserts and ice caps up to 4% over the wet tropics. (Carbon dioxide is a miniscule 0.04%).

Then there are the large and unmeasured supplies of hidden underground water – “renewable” water from rain soaking into alluvial sands and gravels; artesian water in deeper permeable rocks; hydro-thermal water associated with volcanic and igneous activity; and primary water originating deep in Earth’s crust which feeds many natural springs and is sometimes discovered in unexpected places in very large quantities.

With this abundance of water, why do humans ever find themselves short of fresh water? Three reasons – insufficient water is conserved when it is abundant, too much water is wasted, and power costs make desalination unattractive.

The biggest water-wasters are those towns and cities which supply unlimited free or subsidised water to large and growing populations. Everything supplied “free” is wasted. Then when drought comes and water is most needed, it must be rationed. Under-priced or free water will be wasted watering lawns and golf courses so they can be mowed again, sprinkling decorative gardens, supplying fish ponds and water features, washing cars and footpaths, filling swimming pools, indulging long showers, and ignoring dripping taps and leaking pipes. If every user in every town and city were metered, and had to pay the full cost of water, it would be used much more carefully.

For example, back in the 1980’s, the Central Queensland coal town of Moranbah, water was un-metered and water was supplied “free” by the coal company. But in droughts Moranbah water had to be rationed – gardens one side of the street could use water today, the other side tomorrow. Another town, Dalby, in the same climatic district was metered and self-regulated. No watering restrictions were imposed. The water consumption per resident in Dalby was half that of Moranbah (and gardens were just as good).

How should we charge for water? “Charge what it costs” sends the right signals to users. Maybe each user should pay a fixed base charge for water to cover essential needs. This should be related to the capital costs of the water infrastructure. Usage above this should be charged at a variable rate which would increase as the water levels in dams dropped. This would remove the need for water restrictions and generate public support for building more dams.

Lucky Australia has a “Great Artesian Basin” and many grazing properties and inland towns have relied heavily on artesian water that flows to the surface from deep bores. Again this “free” water has been badly wasted by allowing the bores to flow unchecked into open bore drains subject to heavy losses by evaporation and soakage. There is a program to case and cap these bores to reduce wastage. Some of the government funding frittered on global warming “research” and green energy gambles would be better devoted to conserving artesian waters.

Some places like Perth in Western Australia with low rainfall and high evaporation rates have made good use of artificial desalination plants, but desalination is generally the last resort without abundant cheap electricity.

The nuclear energy of the sun powers the greatest desalination plant on earth using mainly sea water to create all of Earth’s clouds, rain, hail and snow. Unfortunately it delivers these products in cycles of floods and droughts. Therefore dams are needed to improve water security in droughts, and to moderate the severity of floods.

Water storage is an important part of the water equation which every farmer understands. There is no point allowing immense floods of fresh water to erode the land and spew into the seas – the oceans are not short of water (but offshore sea life like prawns and corals can benefit from nutrients and minerals delivered offshore in floods).

When the inevitable droughts return and the dams are drained, cities are faced with severe rationing, re-treating waste water or de-salting sea water in expensive power-hungry desalination plants.

Australia has immense deserts and many of our “rivers” (including the mighty Murray-Darling) flow intermittently. Normally “creeks” flow into “rivers”, but in the dry inland it takes two “rivers” (the Thompson and the Barcoo) to service Coopers “Creek”, and still Lake Eyre is usually dry.

Droughts and floods are a natural feature of Australia’s climate.

Our pioneer farmers soon learnt how to cope with drought – “don’t overstock, build more dams and keep the hayshed full”.

The Cattle King of Australia, Sydney Kidman, created a cattle empire by understanding the weather. He knew that universal droughts were not common – there was always some place that got a freak storm that filled dams, made creeks run and brought a flush of green pasture. So he acquired a string of properties stretching from the Gulf of Carpentaria to Adelaide and had his own intelligence network advising where rain had fallen to produce stock feed, and where he could find distressed droughted properties for sale. His drovers drifted mobs of cattle to the grass and water, preferably towards the big southern markets.

Good grazing managers also build private dams and deepen billabongs. They also manage their soil and pastures so that rain runoff is minimised and pastures benefit. This is best achieved by giving pasture periodic rests from grazing pressure, and improving soils by retaining more water and improving soil aeration by key-line ripping, and by supplying mineral deficiencies.

The greatest enemies of sensible water conservation and river management are the water bureaucrats whose rules change every flood. One decade they are removing trees “to allow flood waters to get away quicker”; next decade they place a ban on removing trees. Dam building is encouraged, then it is prohibited. Levies are built, and then taken down. Irrigators are cheered, and then they are dis-possessed. Finally, drunk with power, they draw up “Basin Plans” like the Murray-Darling Basin Plan which is part of a long term green plan to gradually smother farming, grazing and irrigation along the river.

Sensible people try to conserve water when it is abundant, but every dam proposal soon attracts fierce and organised opposition. This means that most of Australia’s dams were completed decades ago – Warragamba NSW 1960, Eungella Qld 1969, Ord River WA 1971, Beardmore Qld 1972, Fairbairn Qld 1972, Snowy River Vic-NSW 1974, Gordon Tasmania 1974, Hinze Qld 1976, North Pine Qld 1976, Fred Haigh Qld 1978, Wivenhoe Qld 1984, Thompson WA 1984, Burdekin Qld 1987, Barambah Qld 1988. Without these dams many Australian cities could not exist, and those who choose to live on flood plains would pay dearly for flood insurance.

Australia’s population has increased greatly since our major dams were built, and our water risk becomes greater every year. Today, pampered urban Greens with no understanding of water realities will predictably oppose every new water proposal. (The Snowy Scheme involved building 16 major dams. Imagine getting the approvals to build them today.)

Free use permitted providing the Cartoonist (Steve Hunter)
and the Carbon Sense Coalition www.carbon-sense.com are acknowledged.

Compiled by Mike Williamson from Australian Government Statistics

There is a growing procession of “ghost dams” in Australia that did not materialise including Nathan Gorge, Urannah, Traveston, Wolffdene, Bremer River, Tully-Millstream, the Bradfield Scheme and the Reid Scheme in Queensland; Clarence, Nymboida and the Macleay Schemes in NSW; Franklyn in Tasmania. Naturally few of these proposals stack up as well as the dams already built, and some may never look feasible – good dam sites are usually used first. But some must be built and they will provide water and food security as well as becoming tourist and wildlife attractions.

If we keep inflating our population with immigrants, subsidising big families with welfare, and attracting tourists with games and spectacles we will have to find more usable water for both cities and farms.

Australian governments are wasting billions of dollars on foreign aid, foreign wars, climate propaganda, subsidies for un-viable industries, politically distorted research and many other suspect causes. Only those who administer or receive this flood of money see value in it. More should be used for drought-proofing the dry continent.

However, the only big water-related investment on Australian government drawing boards today is the Snowy 2.0 pump storage scheme. This scheme will not conserve one extra litre of water, and it will be a net consumer of electricity – its sole useful function is to keep the lights on when intermittent green energy fails. It will also exploit and smooth out the severe electricity price fluctuations caused by intermittent energy from wind and solar power. But, like all hydro-schemes, it needs water and may be at risk in a big drought.

The estimated cost of Snowy 2.0 has risen from $2 billion to $7 billion as the result of spending $29 million on an initial feasibility study. Add that to the $6 billion that the federal government will spend buying the existing Snowy Hydro scheme from the states who own it. If they used this vast splurge of money to build a real water supply dam and a real base-load power station, Australia’s supplies of water and electricity would be far more secure.

Eastern Australia is currently suffering a big drought. Climate alarmists pushing a green global agenda will, as usual, try to exploit community suffering and concern by blaming man-made global warming for more droughts. Wrong again. Warmer oceans would increase evaporation, producing more clouds and more rain, not more drought.

Warmer oceans also expel carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and plants flourish in the moist warm fertile atmosphere. Anyone who studies a bit of climate history can see that warm centuries like the Medieval Warm Period are times of plenty, whereas cold periods like the Little Ice Age are times of hunger and conflict. Spending ANY money trying to reduce global warming is totally wasted. Drought and global cooling are the real threats we should fear and prepare for.

Sensible drought-proofing policies for Australia are simple –

  1. Stop wasting water
  2. Build more dams, pipelines and pumps
  3. Build power stations capable of delivering cheap reliable electricity for pumping water and energising desalination plants.

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Tom Halla
August 16, 2018 3:14 pm

Australia seems as bad as California on environmental management.

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 16, 2018 3:17 pm

Yet they are convinced since they are morally superior, they are doing the right thing.

Reply to  Paul
August 17, 2018 8:33 am

Australia is much better at environmental RISK management than California and the US in general. Australia has learnt from “wild fires” (we call them bushfires) and burn-offs are almost mandatory throughout most of the country AND generally accepted by environmentalists.
Australia also saw it’s worst 2 cyclones in around 100 years in 2006 and 2011 and the total attributed fatalities was TWO. One fatality was linked to the incorrect use of a generator (2011) and one due to heart attack (2006) – so ZERO fatalities attributed to the cyclones themselves.
Keep in mind, Australia is the driest continent on Earth. California is less than 6% the size of Australia and on average, wetter than the majority of Australia.
I’m not saying we have everything right, water supply is always a contentious issue (which is dealt with at a local council level) but comparing a land with much broader concerns to California based purely on some councils poor management is pretty harsh.
Oh, and this isn’t the first time in my life time that eastern Australia has been experiencing significant drought and I’m positive it won’t be the last. This circles back to my point about the driest continent on Earth.

Reply to  Tom Halla
August 16, 2018 3:57 pm

Beavers do a great job. I come from the Great State of Maine and beavers are a huge asset. They create great trout fisheies with their dams and, plenty of water to fight fires in remote locations. Worlds greates engineers in my opinion.

Beavers are a bit terretorial and will protect their young. But of course…Some tree huggers like to go kayaking and harass the wildlife. Maybe this will teach them…


Robert W. Turner
Reply to  john
August 16, 2018 5:57 pm

Do they protect their young when they have rabies?

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Robert W. Turner
August 18, 2018 7:07 am

It doesn’t matter if their young have rabies or not, they still protect them.

Steven Mosher
Reply to  john
August 17, 2018 9:20 am

beaver dams

Sam C Cogar
Reply to  Steven Mosher
August 18, 2018 4:27 am

Beaver dams are like 98% safe as long as there are resident beavers living in the “pond”.

Beavers can immediately detect/sense when the water level in their “pond” starts decreasing or increasing and will thus converge to their dam site to take appropriate “action”.

“Flash flooding” that originates far upstream of a beaver dam is a different problem that beavers cant forsee or react too.

Reply to  Steven Mosher
August 21, 2018 2:22 pm

Well what should you expect if you build in the creek?

Bob Portwood
Reply to  john
August 17, 2018 10:20 am

There was a TV documentary on the benefits beaver dams made to an arid area of the American South West. The beavers regulated the water flow of what had previously been a region of ‘flash floods’. With the advent of the beaver ponds vegetation flourished.

Philip Schaeffer
Reply to  Tom Halla
August 17, 2018 12:28 am

“Australia seems as bad as California on environmental management.”

Yeah, just look at how we screwed the Murray Darling system by building too many dams and pumping the river dry to fill them, leaving no water for those further downstream.

Tom O
August 16, 2018 3:17 pm

Sorry, ace, water should be free, not charged for in any way. It is disgusting to believe anyone would essentially say taxes and profits should be made from something that God gave us. I suppose you would also say that we should be taxed or profit should be made from the air we breathe as well.

As for conserving it, yes, I agree. As for storing it, yes, I agree. As for charging for it, no, as I don’t believe anyone should pay a fine for collecting rain water because some SOB can make a profit off it elsewhere.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Tom O
August 16, 2018 3:30 pm

Should you be charged for collecting rainwater? No. Definitely NO!
Should you be charged for bringing potable water to your house? Yes.
If you don’t agree with that last, then haul your own water everyday from the nearest creek. (I’d suggest you boil it before you drink it.)
I doubt it would be long before you’d be willing pay someone to haul it for you.
(As for flushing with it….)

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 16, 2018 3:42 pm

This is how socialism rots the mind.
Convincing people that they have right to free stuff. No matter how much other people have to be taxed in order to provide it.

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 16, 2018 4:37 pm

Gunga Din

“(As for flushing with it….)”

It offends me that in the UK (and I suspect elsewhere) we happily use drinking water to bathe in, and flush our toilets with.

Perhaps if potable water were treated as it should there would be little expense involved in supplying houses with fresh drinking water.

Fresh, clean drinking water is not only a fundamental human right, it’s one of the basic necessities of life. So why are we all gaily pissing it up the wall by using it to flush away our bodily waste when we could be supplying every household with metered drinking water at a fraction of the cost of what we pay for to send it down the plughole.

It’s not like we drink out the toilet. The western worlds concept of water usage is insane.

Gunga Din
Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 4:51 pm

I hope you forgot the “sarc/” tag.
Two separate water lines to supply a house? One with potable water and one with untreated water? (From where?) That could be done at a fraction of the cost??

Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 5:19 pm

There is “grey water” technology – we use it here in the Sonoran Desert to water the golf courses, city parks, and for the various water features in those parks.

It is VERY difficult to get right. For nearly ten years after converting, our parks smelled like raw sewage. Migrating ducks disappeared; they had nowhere safe to land. That is MOSTLY cleared up now – although it gets out of balance on occasion and we get the sewage back. (Ducks are rather conservative creatures – we still have a much smaller population during migration season.)

As for “in-home” systems, no. JUST NO. Think of that nice rich culture medium in your toilet (or coming out of your shower head), just chock full of food particles, skin follicles, etc., etc., etc. (If you are one of the people that add phosphates to your dishwasher and laundry machine so that you have CLEAN things to eat off of and wear, the problem is far worse.)

As for treating to get potable water from your supply, and supplying untreated water for “non-drinking” uses – that will save on your treatment expense, but very little water. Or are you proposing getting it from the ocean? Ever taken a salt-water shower? Put on clothing that has dried after being in the ocean? Surely you have – think about it.

Reply to  Writing Observer
August 16, 2018 5:37 pm

Writing Observer & Gunga Din

Fair points. But potable water to the home was unheard of not too many years ago.

Surely fresh water can be filtered to remove debris, then perhaps chlorinated at the point of consumption. paid for by the user.

Arbitrarily penalising people with rudimentary water meters doesn’t seem a sensible option. And running a single dual pipe to homes, to supply a meagre amount of drinking water as opposed to the vast amount (by comparison) to bathe in, flush toilets and run washing machines doesn’t seem too much of a problem.

Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 7:42 pm

When was potable water delivered to the home unheard of? In my home county it was available starting in the 1920s. Country houses had cisterns to collect rainwater for laundry and non-imbibing uses, also to put on gardens and lawns. Our “country” house had city water and waste disposal outflow in the 1950s.
Where are you getting the information that potable water delivery to the home was unheard of, HotScot?

Reply to  Sara
August 17, 2018 3:42 am


I meant piped potable water. I should probably have been clearer.

Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 12:04 am

You are looking at this from the wrong perspective.

Uk houses are supplied with water that is for all purposes and is even certified safe to drink.

Because it’s not expensive to do it that way, whereas installing split supplies and then having the dog die after drinking out of the toilet bowl would be so much more expensive.

Most of what a city has coming out of its taps is, anyway, recycled sewage.

You need to treat the sewage anyway, so why not?

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 17, 2018 3:49 am

Leo Smith

Fair point. Thinking about it overnight I kind of reached the same conclusion. It’s a question of economics but it does encourage an awful lot of waste.

Gunga Din
Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 6:03 am

8- )
The idea is kind of like wind and solar replacing fossil and nuclear power.
It sounds good at first but after thinking it through, it’s a no go.
(I wish those promoting wind and solar would think it through as you have!)

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 17, 2018 6:10 am

Gunga Din

It is not hard to learn more. What is hard is to unlearn when you discover yourself wrong. (Martin H. Fischer)


Gunga Din
Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 6:58 am

It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so. Will Rogers

And another one I found while looking for that one. Seems like he was talking about celebrities considered to be experts because they played one in a movie.

Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke. Will Rogers

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 17, 2018 7:10 am

Gunga Din

I believe the former First Minister of Scotland and Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) leader, Alex Salmond, turned his hand to stand up comedy when he retired from his post (after the dismal failure of his attempt to win independence for Scotland).

I suspect he did very well as he had a good head start.

Steven Mosher
Reply to  Gunga Din
August 17, 2018 9:26 am

seen the air in Beijing?

Gunga Din
Reply to  Steven Mosher
August 17, 2018 11:29 am

No, I haven’t seen the air in Beijing. But I’ve seen the air where I live in the US. It’s fine. (Except for the seasonal high pollen counts. Allergies are a bitch!) Sensible air quality regs based on real science rather than regs based on “We’re all going to DIE!” political science.
PS You do know that CO2 is an invisible gas no matter what it’s source, don’t you?

Reply to  Steven Mosher
August 19, 2018 5:23 pm

@ Mosher,
I’ve seen it during the temperature inversions.
What is your point.

Reply to  Writing Observer
August 17, 2018 7:16 am

you can run washing machine water to lawns and collect in a small holding tank to bucket water around in summer at least
phosphate detergent or not its damned good for plants and stops the superdry nonwetting issue as well
what do you think wetting agents for farm soils are?
detergent! in fact amway did a roaring trade selling theirs in bulk for that some time ago.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
August 17, 2018 9:10 am

I’ve heard of people who save the grey water from showers and sinks to water their gardens.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
August 18, 2018 11:07 am

Using wash water on your garden is not such a great idear, iffen you use things like, oh I don’t know…BLEACH, to make sure your clothes and sheets and towels are sanitized and not just appearing clean.
Most places have a tremendous excess of water.
Do not be brainwashed by this tripe promulgated in the article.
Start here to undo brainwashing: Calculate the amount of rain that falls on square mile if one inch of rain falls. In gallons or liters.
Multiply by any number that comes to mind…inches per year in your location, square miles in the county in which you live…etc.
People that live in deserts have created a problem that sane people do not have…so they need to quit bothering us with their delusions.

Steve R
Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 7:52 pm

The infrastructure required to provide two water sources would be prohibitive.

Rick C PE
Reply to  Gunga Din
August 16, 2018 4:46 pm

Hey, my water is free — if you don’t count the $4000 to drill the well, $2500 for the pump and pipe, $7000 for the septic system and of course the electricity to run the pump. But the water itself is free.

Reply to  Rick C PE
August 16, 2018 6:44 pm

You hit the nail on the head there Rick! The water is free, the infrastructure needed to use it costs a lot of money, as we know here.
The same goes for coal, oil, gas or nuclear energy…it’s the infrastructure that costs although they are all ‘free’. Same for solar, wind, tidal, hydro…it’s the infrastructure that is definitely not free.

Reply to  Rick C PE
August 16, 2018 7:42 pm

My water is free, but I get charged for its delivery, which is about $40/month.

Reply to  Rick C PE
August 17, 2018 7:22 am

so 13.5k for a lifetime use/supply
betcha in even 10yrs thats better than water rates and sewage charges?
JUST water service charges(not any used) and sewage fees in my town avg to 1,200 a year and they rise quarterly im seeing for the last 3 yrs its a slow sneaky 2 or so dollars UP every bill.
if it ever gets installed and runs PAST my property hooked into or NOT i will be forced to pay 800 or so a yr for a service i dont use require or want.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
August 17, 2018 9:12 am

For wells and septic systems to work, the population density has to be fairly low.

Patrick MJD
Reply to  Gunga Din
August 16, 2018 7:44 pm

In Australia some people are charged for collecting rain water and storing it on their properties.

Reply to  Patrick MJD
August 17, 2018 7:22 am


Reply to  Gunga Din
August 17, 2018 7:13 am

usa either outright bans rainwater collection, and fines people in some places i gather from web reads
i know, insanity + especially in drier states.
aus doesnt charge for any rainwater YET
however it IS a clause in the hmm? lisbon treaty from memory from the morons in the eu
roof are can be calculated and either stored water OR the runoff mystically modelled for charging homeowners.
fools in mt barker council tried this stunt a while back to TAX water collected on owner built /maintained dams! all bar 10% volume was to be used to gain more revenue for NO input..
lets say it was a bunfight and they backed down;-)
but theyll try again you can bet.
where i am as a rual resident i can legally dig a dam without permit to a max size, which i found generous enough to hold my own blocks runoff , if only i could pay to get it dug.

Reply to  ozspeaksup
August 17, 2018 7:33 am

Several US states have Riparian(sp?) water rights systems where down stream users have higher priority to the rain fall than the owner of the property where the water falls. While I’m not pass judgment on right or wrong, I just mean to put out there is a system of identified rules which are being followed.
Not following the rules, gets one in trouble.

Reply to  RHS
August 17, 2018 9:13 am

The same principle applies if someone builds a dam upstream of a river that flows through your property.

It’s not so much that their rights are superior, it’s more that all parties need to negotiate any changes.

Reply to  Tom O
August 16, 2018 3:41 pm

By that same insane logic, food should be free as well.

Nobody is proposing fining the collection of rain water, just making you pay for what other people have to deliver to you.

Reply to  MarkW
August 16, 2018 4:19 pm

Ahh but there are municipalities that will fine you for collecting rain water. California has loads of places that will own your property on the fines if you dare use a rain barrel. HOW DARE YOU ATTEMPT TO BE SELF=SUFFICIENT! ONLY GOVERNMENT CAN BRING YOU LIFE. (ok, I have to calm down. Channeling loony toons totalitarians can work up the blood pressure.)

Reply to  OwenInGA
August 16, 2018 5:21 pm

CA is insane.
Not a valid example.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  OwenInGA
August 16, 2018 6:00 pm

Someone seriously needs to take those governments to federal court for a violation of basic rights. That or build in a floodplain and sue when “their” water damages you.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  MarkW
August 16, 2018 4:40 pm

Actually, in some jurisdictions collecting rain water is verboten. You don’t have a right to divert rain water from the watershed. There was a fella in Oregon who went to jail for doing so, although it was more for the industrial-size operation than anything else.

Joe Wagner
Reply to  Tom O
August 16, 2018 3:44 pm

To add to Gunga’s statement:
Theres quite an expense to bringing potable water to any house: pipeage, pumpage, treatment, and maintenance on the same. Plus paying people at all end of the water line to give you your water: All the Operators making sure the water is safe to drink; all the people testing the water to make sure they’ve done their jobs correctly; all the maintenance people fixing things, etc.
Way back in the day I worked it- the cost in the Washington D.C. area was about $1.25 per thousand gallons. I’m sure its risen since then in many ways.
Someone has to pay it. Whether it comes out of your taxes or by direct billing- YOU have to pay for the water you drink/bathe with/wash your dishes and clothes/ etc.

Reply to  Tom O
August 16, 2018 4:04 pm

To summarize, everything is free! Diamonds, uranium, oil or any natural resource is free! The locating, extracting, processing and delivery of those resources requires labor, which we pay for in money, and you as a consumer of that product have to pay for it, somehow and always.

Reply to  davidq
August 17, 2018 4:35 am

Every product that anyone sells for a profit is made using resources that are natural resources of this planet. The processes by which the natural resources are rendered into useful products are developed by applying and controlling the natural processes of the planet.
The resources are free if their cost is calculated minus the cost of extracting and refining them. Everyone is free to make use of the natural processes if they use them responsibly in a manner that don’t cause problems for others or for the environment in general. The cost of production consists of the cost of the energy that is applied to controlling the natural processes. And not even in the Garden of Eden was there a free lunch.

Reply to  Tom
August 17, 2018 8:43 am


Your statement is totally stolen now and used to educate the young folks that listen to me ramble each day. It’ll be great next week as a discussion starter.

Reply to  Tom O
August 16, 2018 4:05 pm

You sound like the Communists who thought that middlemen (truckers, merchants) were parasites for charging a fee (profit) for bringing grain from the country to the city. Grain rotting on the farm has zero value. They never got it, for “getting it” would have been a violation of their religion, Marxism. After the take over of Russia by the Bolsheviks, Russia hardly exported grain again, even though it was a big grain exporter prior to WW I. Grain imports were a perennial feature of their economy. Now, with capital markets working agin in Russia, Russia has once again become a big grain exporter. Do you see the connection?

Reliable and clean drinking water is not natural. Spend anytime out in nature. There are few places where 24/7 year round clean drinking water in any amount you need is available. The water I drink comes from dams built decades ago and requires an expensive infrastructure. And, rainfall. Otherwise, I would have to dig a well and remove water from a community resource without paying for it. Read about the “Tragedy of the Commons” for what comes next.

Neither is the disposal of this water after it is used natural. There is no way we could simply discharge our waste water back into the environment without treatment. Sewer fees are actually a lot more expensive than water fees where I live (Baltimore, MD, USA). I use a septic system, so I bear the cost of maintaining that myself. But, my neighbors and I release large amounts of dirty water (sewage) into the environment everyday, into the dirt of my front yard in my case, and expect the septic tank and the leeching fields to clean this water up before it returns to the watershed. This is not natural or free.

There is no better way to regulate the use of any limited resource than by pricing it. For example, is “heat” free? Imagine if electricity and natural gas were supplied free of charge. Use all you want, just pay for the distribution. After all, electrons are free!

Fair pricing encourages more supply of the resource in question. Look at the oil supply.

The only argument for free anything is that the thing is essential and wealth inequality makes purchasing the “thing” more of a burden for some people than others. This is where govt can intervene in the marketplace to subsidize the cost of the “thing” for poorer people. This is done for things like health care and education in the USA. Health care and education costs have gone through the roof in this country. Is there a connection? Well, with great regulation comes limited supply and higher cost, and the subsidies hide the true cost from the consumer.

Visit a modern, well kept American supermarket to see the result of charging what it costs for a product.


Steve R
Reply to  Tom O
August 16, 2018 7:50 pm

Everything is free in utopia.

Reply to  Tom O
August 17, 2018 7:14 am


August 16, 2018 3:19 pm

Maybe it’s a nitpick but the article is about Australia and the cartoon shows beavers who aren’t native to Australia.

Beavers depend for their survival on their ability to make dams. Beavers demonstrating against dams are a lot like humans demonstrating against cheap abundant electric power.

The article talks about metering water as a way to prevent waste. There’s a limit where the cost is so high that people can’t afford the water (or electricity) that they need. In the extreme case it leads to needless deaths.

Reply to  commieBob
August 16, 2018 3:45 pm

People only need a few quarts a day to survive. (Liters for those of you on the other side of the pond.)

I don’t know anyone who is proposing increasing the price to the kind of levels where people couldn’t afford to take a drink.

What they want is for people to be smarter in how they use water for lawns and washing.

Reply to  MarkW
August 16, 2018 4:15 pm

The only reason Stalin didn’t do it was that he didn’t think of it. link On the other hand, things got stupid in Bolivia:

Under Reyes Villa, Cochabamba’s water utility was sold to the only bidder, a subsidiary of the American corporation Bechtel, and prices rapidly skyrocketed as much as 200 percent. Under the Bechtel contract, it became illegal for city residents or peasants in surrounding communities to collect rainwater for drinking, irrigation, or anything else. The water that irrigated the farm fields of communities like Tiquipaya would instead be confiscated and rerouted into the leaky pipes beneath the city. link

Never underestimate the capabilities of the corrupt and stupid. Corruption is a major cause of starvation.

Reply to  MarkW
August 16, 2018 4:41 pm


“(Liters for those of you on the other side of the pond.)”

A few pints are enough for me. But thanks for the acknowledgement.

Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 12:09 am

No, this side of the pond it’s litres.

And metres

Meters are what you use to measure stuff other than length with.

Reply to  Leo Smith
August 17, 2018 4:02 am

Leo Smith

We still buy beer in pints and half pints, MPH is used on car speedometers, roads signs use miles and the British Thermal Unit (BTU) is used globally I believe, it’s still an imperial measurement isn’t it?

Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 4:43 am

……And a free-falling object still falls exactly 16 feet in the first second after it is released.

Try amending that measure in a way that you can use metric measurement…………….

Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 12:07 pm

Pints(or half pints) X MPH = BTU’s felt at the impact point of that/or any tree.

Reply to  u.k.(us)
August 17, 2018 3:40 pm


In scientific terms, expressed as levels of ‘OUCH’. There is of course a maximum OUCH level, beyond which the expression of OUCH declines as the severity of OUCHNESS increases.

Slightly morbid. I have attended many car crashes where the expression has never been uttered.

Reply to  HotScot
August 17, 2018 6:02 pm

It was a public service announcement, I’ve scraped some bark off trees back in the day.

Gunga Din
Reply to  HotScot
August 19, 2018 3:29 pm

Nice to know that what really matter in Scotland is still measured in English. 😎

Reply to  Gunga Din
August 19, 2018 4:36 pm

Gunga Din

I have lived in deepest, darkest Kent for the last 30 years. I would like to retire back to Scotland in the next 3 or 4 years, but not whilst the insane SNP are crawling the face of the earth.

Cumbria looks very nice. Hop skip and a jump across the border when I want and no need to pay extra income tax the predatory Nicola Sturgeon has imposed.

Richard of NZ
Reply to  Leo Smith
August 17, 2018 4:26 am

But you can use an odometer to measure distance (length) with.

Better to say a micrometer is an instrument for measuring micrometres.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  MarkW
August 16, 2018 6:24 pm

Not every area needs to worry about personal water use because it is extremely abundant. Some areas it becomes necessary, but like this article said, people aren’t acting like it.

Vegas is the poster child and the bottom will soon fall out as Lake Mead inevitably reaches critical level. I suspect that is why the Raiders were wise enough not to move there.

John Harmsworth
Reply to  commieBob
August 16, 2018 4:09 pm

Beavers are incredible environmental engineers. They will make wetlands where dried out semi desert existed before. Couldn’t say what they might be able to do for or to Australia. If there is enough water for them to create a pond the resulting trees will shade it and preserve it and the beavers will move on to create more wetland. They just need to be left alone. I wouldn’t actually doubt that they could be beneficial. Might need to breed a desert variety that can take the heat! Or give the regular ones sunglasses!

John M. Ware
Reply to  John Harmsworth
August 16, 2018 4:32 pm

I believe importing beavers to Australia would be a disaster. In their place, here in the USA (at least, those parts where they now live), they are marvelous–ingenious, industrious, prolific. However, even here they can make big trouble–placing a dam where it will flood roads and fields, among other possibilities. Here, also, they have natural predators that keep their population somewhat in check. I have no idea whether any predators in Australia would know what to make of beavers, but I could easily see uncontrolled breeding, drastic population increase of beavers, and instinctive placement of dams wherever they might fit. I haven’t the faintest doubt that beavers would make themselves unwelcome very soon.

In the meantime, Australia is populated already by many knowledgeable, ingenious, well-educated PEOPLE who can build dams far more specialized and useful than any beaver. What is needed is to replace the people Australians now elect with some new folks who know what to do–and more important, what not to do–in order to address the varied supplies and needs of water for the continent.

Reply to  John M. Ware
August 16, 2018 4:44 pm

John M. Ware

It would be like importing Roo’s to the US. The place would be overrun in very short order.

Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 5:24 pm

Add “and releasing them into the wild” there. We actually have several “roo ranches,” especially here in the SW semi-arid regions.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  Writing Observer
August 16, 2018 6:30 pm

How’s the meat?

Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 6:04 pm

Tell that to the buffalo.

Peter Schell
Reply to  John M. Ware
August 16, 2018 5:29 pm

They imported something like Twenty pairs of beavers to southern South American in the 1940s, there are now something like three hundred thousand and they are talking about a cull.

john harmsworth
Reply to  John M. Ware
August 16, 2018 6:34 pm

You could be right. But if Oz was overrun with beavers it wouldn’t be a dry place!

Reply to  John M. Ware
August 16, 2018 7:30 pm

Beavers would be unlikely to establish in Australia unless they can develop a taste for eucalypts. There are areas where willows are naturalised and beavers eat a lot of herbaceous vegetation, but otherwise it would be hard yakka. Still, it would be a really dumb idea to try, although apparently it has been suggested to ‘address effects of climate change’ according to a duckduckgo search.

Reply to  John M. Ware
August 17, 2018 9:17 am

I thought Dingos ate pretty much everything.

Reply to  John M. Ware
August 18, 2018 8:05 pm

Beavers can be controlled in an easy way, because they are making a good meal. We have re-imported beaver her in Bavaria.

Those who make too much fuss in one area are allowed to be hunted, but it is not allowed to advertise for the meat.

So you have to know the hunter to get that fine food.

Reply to  John Harmsworth
August 16, 2018 7:55 pm

Hmmmn. Beavers versus eucalyptus trees? Who would win?
(Must check on beaver out-gassing after eating eucalyptus leaves.)

Carnivorous beavers trained to eat ‘roos and rabbits!

a happy little debunker
Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 17, 2018 3:23 am

But then they would be subject to drop bears & you should never, ever mess with drop bears!

Reply to  a happy little debunker
August 18, 2018 3:56 pm

I’m too lazy to look it up, what the heck is a “drop bear” ?

Reply to  u.k.(us)
August 18, 2018 8:07 pm

The same like a Haggis in Scotland and a Wolpertinger in Bavaria.

Reply to  Johannes S. Herbst
August 18, 2018 8:11 pm

Or a hoop snake in Canada / USA.

Gunga Din
Reply to  u.k.(us)
August 19, 2018 3:49 pm

A carnivorous koala. Sort of like an American Sasquatch. No one’s ever seen one, but, some just know it’s out there.

Gunga Din
Reply to  RACookPE1978
August 19, 2018 3:37 pm

Train them to eat cane toads and rabbits. A pack of them could probably take on dingoes.

(Of course, then you’d be left with a bunch of carnivorous beavers. “Never mind”.)

August 16, 2018 3:25 pm

Desalination should be the last effort to ensure a water supply and only used when conservation cannot provide. California is a shining example of poor water management and the last place desalination should be applied despite its’ vast shoreline. The state returns enough fresh water to the ocean to solve its’ cyclical droughts and the idea that it’s OK to turn fresh water saline then desalinate it for use is crazy thinking considering the cost and environmental damage involved.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  markl
August 16, 2018 6:31 pm

New technology could change all that.

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
August 16, 2018 6:53 pm

About the only practical use of non-dispatchable wind/solar to run the desalination plants.

Gunga Din
Reply to  AWG
August 19, 2018 3:57 pm

And then all fresh water produced from wind/solar energy could be used to “Save the Smelt!”.
The “natural” occurring water could be used to “Save the People!”.

Steve R
Reply to  Robert W. Turner
August 16, 2018 8:03 pm

Can’t fight physics, technology or not, its very energy intensive.

Robert W Turner
Reply to  Steve R
August 17, 2018 7:56 am

People said the same thing about many technologies we successfully employ today.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
August 17, 2018 9:19 am

Are you arguing that because this argument has been misused in the past, this proves that every time it is used now, it is wrong?

August 16, 2018 3:30 pm

Just a note that back in the 1880s-early 1900s there were several more severe droughts-including the Federation Drought from 1895-1902- in Australia, so when you hear people refer to the ‘worst ever drought’ for the current one, this ~1 year drought has a very, very long way to go before getting to that.

Reply to  thingadonta
August 17, 2018 5:07 am

Good news for NSW is that many previous droughts were one-year events … but the bad news is that some previous ones lasted for two years.

It is shameful how current droughts in Australia are described in terms of data from 1950. Is it just coincidence that 1950-80 was an exceptionally wet period?

August 16, 2018 3:45 pm

“If we keep inflating our population with immigrants”…

Am I the only person that sees a problem with the same people that say we are over populating…
…are the same people that are all for illegal immigration and no borders..anyone just go anywhere you want

Reply to  Latitude
August 16, 2018 4:53 pm


Welcome to the EU mate.

The UK’s terrorism intelligence service is stretched to breaking. They needn’t be were we allowed to impose immigration restrictions that would catch the terrorists at the front door.

But no, the EU compels us to accept anyone. Mind you, they also compel destitute EU members states to do the same, but I don’t see their countries overrun with wealthy Londoners bombing their streets.

Funny that.

Reply to  HotScot
August 16, 2018 5:23 pm

…and in Sweden they put a whole new spin on “burning down the house”

You’re right……

August 16, 2018 3:55 pm

Very good article. One nit, though:

“Warmer oceans also expel carbon dioxide into the atmosphere” isn’t quite accurate.

These days, with CO2 above 400 ppmv, warmer oceans just absorb CO2 a bit more slowly than cooler oceans, there’s no net release of CO2 from the oceans to the atmosphere.

John Harmsworth
August 16, 2018 4:02 pm

I’m sorry I don’t know much about Australian geology but storage reservoirs are always going to be prone to high evaporation rates. Are there any underground storage points in the drier areas that could be utilized by filling during wetter periods and accessing that water during the dry periods? It’s a big continent so I would be surprised if there aren’t.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  John Harmsworth
August 16, 2018 5:29 pm

Over behind the Great Dividing Range, the land is flat. You could dig an underground storage facility pretty easy, but it would be cheaper to build it above ground. We have an artesian basin, water just below the surface in huge quantities. However, if you pull out too much of it, it will kill the land above.

Here’s an example of what can be done. Hughenden, middle of QLD, hot and dry.

A station near Hughendend with lots of water.

Steve R
Reply to  John Harmsworth
August 16, 2018 8:05 pm

Water can be stored underground in deep aquifers. Its quite common in the US.

D. Anderson
August 16, 2018 4:28 pm

I don’t know why Great Lake states don’t market themselves as the home of UNLIMITED water.

J Mac
Reply to  D. Anderson
August 16, 2018 7:08 pm

It isn’t ‘unlimited’.

Steven Mosher
Reply to  J Mac
August 17, 2018 11:08 am

operative words were “market themselves”

August 16, 2018 4:52 pm

Would bee interesting to see a population increase as an overlay on that graph.

Harry Newman
August 16, 2018 4:54 pm

“The biggest water-wasters are those towns and cities which supply unlimited free or subsidised water to large and growing populations. Everything supplied “free” is wasted.”

Actually, Viv is not quite correct here. As little as 10% of Australia’s regulated water supply goes to the cities, whilst about 70% is “wasted” on irrigation. Another 10% can be added to the irrigation waste with irrigation transmission loss. Of all the water diverted to irrigation only 10% actually generates a profit, with the largest remaining component being sprayed on … grass, for hay etc. The 10% of irrigation that generates 90% of the revenue from irrigation, is truck crop, horticulture and the like, and ironically in any one year, Australia produces about twice as much irrigated food as is required. And yes, the waste is generally plowed back in. The average return per megaliter for the whole irrigated sector is as little as $75/ml, which is shocking when the average cost of water supply to irrigation in Australia is close to $350/ml. By comparison the average cost of water into the cities is climbing dramatically beyond $2500/ml to as much as $5000/ml. Urban users pay these costs … water is not free here. So the bottom line is that urban users are being exploited to pay the waste and subsidization in the irrigation sector. Currently the cost of desalination is up beyond $12,000/ml and with the destruction of the electricity power sector in Australia by the incompetent politicians that cost will soar if we ever have another serious drought … and Australia is dry by nature. The irony of the ridiculously distorted Australian water industry over the past 140 years is that farmers and irrigators have not been the political motivators for the gross over investment in irrigation. The drive has come from socialist politicians from the left and right who seemed more motivated to get money into their electorates and possibly a name on a dam. Alfred Deakin was the first. Sadly, they have been aided and abetted by so many water planners, scientists and experts as well as dam builders who grew fat on more public money. In the water industry, in many places, there has been an old saying which characterizes the socialist mentality of public spending generally … “socialize the cost whilst privatizing the benefits”.
The footnote for Aussie water management is that the country has more than enough water to grow as much food as is needed and supply urban and industrial users … even in the worst of years. The challenge is to get it out of the irrigation sector. Sadly many rural irrigation districts have become financial traps for poor folks, who should be living back in the cities. The Aussie water problem is pretty typical of irrigation distortions globally. We do NOT need to build more dams!

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  Harry Newman
August 16, 2018 6:43 pm

Exactly, the upcoming problem is from depletion of giant aquifers in dry regions. Here in the U.S. we are essentially mandating and subsidizing the use of precious aquifer water to grow corn for ethanol. Just spray that water into the air on a hot summer day with 10% relative humidity, brilliant planning.

Robert W. Turner
August 16, 2018 5:53 pm

I like the idea of giant capped wells in places they can be applied instead of more dams. Coastlines can suffer when you trap sediment behind dams, i.e. Mississippi Delta.

Quarry and dredge in the floodplain – this could be useful material itself – seal the sides/bottom if necessary and next time water is abundant, aka a flood, the stepwells fill up and divert flood water. Use the well water first and stop pumping those wells while you do.

Not sure how many places in the world where this could be applied but it sounds like Australia could be a candidate, I know the Ogallala aquifer is. I just checked and some water wells literally in the dry channel bed of the Arkansas river west of Dodge City are 30+ feet to static water level. The floodplain is filled with hundreds of feet of sand, some of it very high quality. You’re not going to make a lake on the Arkansas or Cimarron rivers over the Ogallala, but if giant stepwells work in the Thar desert – the most populated desert in the world – then they might be a solution elsewhere.

August 16, 2018 6:14 pm

As a result of the 1950s drought a lot of dams were built in Texas. There was even a failed attempt to divert Mississippi River water to the west. Currently the Colorado River (Texas through Austin) and an intermediate lake divert water to Corpus Christi.

A water plan also releases an allotment to the bays, not based on endangered species, but on clear evidence (exact amounts needed difficult to establish) that it enhances survival of some species, whooping cranes for example. While there have been dry years since, early 2010s especially, the 50s drought has not been matched. Corpus Christi, supplied by two dams and diversion, is on a development binge and at some point difficult decisions will have to be made. There has already been rationing and one lawsuit I know of. You can only dam so much water.

Robert W. Turner
Reply to  HDHoese
August 16, 2018 6:47 pm

Canada should offer to sell the US water. Pipelines from Canada would work, straight south from Lake Winnipeg.

Reply to  Robert W. Turner
August 17, 2018 7:43 am

That’s an interesting idea. The Mississippi is a lot closer, however, Canadian water might be easier to process, but there could be lots of demand along the route. Also there are sediment demands on the lower Mississippi due to water control and forestation which has produced less erosion. I don’t recall this put forth as a possibility, maybe use an old pipeline and put a pig through with a detergent? Leaks could produce a wetland all the way.

But then there is this that I learned on a trip to Canada. (Canadian immigration is frowned on because they would clean up the countryside, sarc?)

Robert W Turner
Reply to  HDHoese
August 17, 2018 8:02 am

I just assume the cost of building a water pipeline is miniscule compared to building an oil pipeline. Probably not feasible currently, but water prices will go up as aquifers decline and population increases.

Reply to  Robert W Turner
August 17, 2018 9:25 am

I would think that a water pipe would be more expensive. Pressures would be about the same, and water is more corrosive.

John Michelmore
August 16, 2018 6:43 pm

More common sense. Something our Australian politicians lack!

Steve R
August 16, 2018 7:49 pm

Too many water utilities charge just enough to maintain operations, with no funds available to replace worn out infrastructure. So they limp along hoping for a federal grant to fund what should have been anticipated expenses from the get go.

R. Shearer
August 16, 2018 8:08 pm

The nitrogen concentration in air is 78%, not 76%.

Hocus Locus
August 16, 2018 8:19 pm

I put out a riddle, what creature has most visibly transformed the North America we see from space? The beaver. You can spot people at night, but the Beaver rules the day. Millions of years of ponding streams, laking rivers, ponds and lakes backing into the watersheds with little erosion, the diverted rain water saturating and filling underground reservoirs so that years hence — beavers’ industry is a greening that extends far from the original dam. If it were not for beavers, major rivers would be deep canyons surrounded by semi-arid scrub.

Reply to  Hocus Locus
August 17, 2018 3:55 pm

Which is one reason why reintroducing wolves to Yellowstone was so beneficial.

Philip Schaeffer
August 16, 2018 10:13 pm

I don’t think you’re counting the massive amounts of water storage on farms that pump out of the Murray Darling system. Just because you don’t put a wall up across the river doesn’t mean you don’t have a dam.

We have huge dams, and lots of them. And of course the river is screwed by taking too much water.

A lot of people have vowed that they will never let that happen to the rivers we haven’t wrecked.

If only those damn bureaucrats would go away and leave the farmers to take waters…. well, we already know what happens then. People downstream don’t get any water.

John Hardy
August 16, 2018 10:20 pm

Thought provoking and well-written. Thank you.

August 16, 2018 10:26 pm

“Eastern Australia is currently suffering a big drought. Climate alarmists pushing a green global agenda will, as usual, try to exploit community suffering and concern by blaming man-made global warming for more droughts. Wrong again. Warmer oceans would increase evaporation, producing more clouds and more rain, not more drought.

Warmer oceans also expel carbon dioxide ”

Luckily Viv is the worlds leading climate expert, although I think he should stick to spruiking for the coal industry.

Reply to  RyanS
August 17, 2018 8:09 am

I think he should stick to spruiking for the coal industry.

He can do both. You spruik against the coal industry — doesn’t mean you can’t do other things.

Reply to  RyanS
August 17, 2018 9:27 am

Once again, Ryan doesn’t even attempt to refute. He just declares that the author must be wrong.

dodgy geezer
August 16, 2018 10:48 pm

…The biggest water-wasters are those towns and cities which supply unlimited free or subsidised water to large and growing populations. Everything supplied “free” is wasted. . .. “Charge what it costs” sends the right signals to users…

No. NO! A thousand times, NO!

This is the commonest mistake in the book, mixing up ‘water’ and ‘water processing’.

We can NEVER run out of water, or even have shortages, because we never ‘use’ or ‘waste’ water. It moves in a cycle, and we have as much of it now as when the planet started (odd issues like icy comets landing excepted)

However, we can easily run out of, or overload, the resources we use to capture, store, process and distribute water. It is the water company’s infrastructure which is being ‘wasted’ when processed water leaks into the ground – NOT the water itself.

What this misunderstanding means is that the water companies are able to blame their customers for their own infrastructure inadequacies, and get them to pay more or accept a lower (or rationed) service on the grounds that ‘water is scarce’. It is not. If we wanted, each person on Earth could ‘use’ a swimming-pool’s worth of water a day, even in a drought, and there would be the same amount of water at the end of the day as at the beginning.

Water really IS free. It is the provision of processing and distribution that costs, and by pretending that that is the ‘cost’ of water the companies are able to limit their infrastructure spend and dial what profit they like out of their limited investment. We need to understand that we can have ANY amount of water we like – it’s just a matter of deciding how much infrastructure we are willing to pay for.

Two other minor points. With a decent distribution infrastructure it is MUCH cheaper and more efficient to feed houses with ONE potable supply and use it for car washing than to try to operate two separate supplies. This is not ‘waste’.

And leaks in distribution pipes are not ‘water waste’. There will be an optimum level of acceptable leakage in any distribution system, and it is poor engineering practice to require maintenance above this level. Incidentally, leaks are a function of water supply pressure, and it is common practice to avoid the need for infrastructure investment by upping the supply pressure. Get companies to spend more on infrastructure investment as the population rises, leaks will go down and the water price will do the same…

August 17, 2018 1:33 am

An old chestnut I know but if Snowy2 is ok at a negative cost why can’t we do a Bradfield scheme and redirect Australia’s Northern rivers to the south.
For goodness sake Nature has redirected rivers and built dams over millenia. What is the big deal???
The good old USA redirected the Chicago river but I believe the jury is out on that although infesting species is a worldwide issue.

Peta of Newark
August 17, 2018 5:26 am

A very long time ago, and it was coz I still thought carbonoxide might be a greenhouse gas at the time, I read something that said very simply:
Australia’s problem is that it has low carbon soils.

I didn’t understand that. What did it mean?
Carbon? Charcoal? Soot? Coal maybe even??

But after 50 years watching subsoil emerge in increasingly larger patches across my 255 acre Cumbrian farm, it dawned.
Even more so when my elderly Mum (now RIP) was persuaded by a Sunday paper magazine to buy a print of a map produced in 1870. It showed the local village, parish and farm.
Nearly 70 of those 255 acres were at that time effectively= marshland. Permanently waterlogged land growing Juncus Effusus and moss.

I, from 1988 thro 1996, grew spring barley on that land because, get this, it was the driest, sandiest soil on the farm.
Barley yields slowly declined to the point I was wasting my time. In fact, EU subsidy payments kept me growing barley for longer than was really wise.

Points arising:
Do you think the temperature response (to incoming sunlight) of the waterlogged land in 1870 would have been the same as the dry & sandy land of 1990 onwards?

I ask because swamp drainage and moorland reclamation operations were carried out all over England at those times. Those drained areas of farmland now encompass entirely the region where the Central England Temperature series is recorded.
Any or no effect on the CET data?

My farm :
Where did all the old Juncus Effusus and the accumulated moss go – why did it become possible to drive heavy machinery over swampland, And the very last thing anyone could describe a combine-harvester is an ‘All Terrain Vehicle’

Hopefully you’ve worked it out,
Australia’s problem is not water.
Water or the lack thereof is symptomatic of a much deeper problem. It is actually only about 2 feet deep, the depth to which high-organic topsoil produces itself.

I have actually just worked it out (c’mon it is Friday after all)
What Australia needs is not beavers – it need Juncus Effusus.
It grows in spectacularly nutrient-free soils and creates its own landscape perfectly adapted to capturing and storing water.

Work it out – 12 inches depth of high organic (high carbon in the vernacular) will catch and retain 2 inches of rainfall before it even feels wet or releases any. Juncus shades the ground to slow evaporation and creates mounds with hollows between that trap/store water.
AND and and, the best thing for propagating the stuff and spreading it around are – sheep.
(They like to hide in there, keep out of the hot sun, be cool and more often than not, simply die. But that”s just what sheep do, no helping that, But if they don’t expire while in there, the seeds attach to their fleeces and be carried for miles..)

That will drought proof Australia and as an added bonus, it is damn near Roundup Ready already.
Wicked stuff

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 17, 2018 5:54 am

How could I forget?
Juncus was used for making rudimentary candles – the centre of the stalks were teased out and dried then soaked in, typically, animal fat.
Perfect – endless supply of free candles for when the Aussie electricity grid falls over (again)

Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 17, 2018 7:38 am

thanks for the laugh. our soils unless in 12+inches of rainfall wont grow it. and not much of aus has that every year. cattle n sheep might graze it when young
but a mass of that in a 40c avg hot and 35 normal summer would burn like merry hell

Reply to  ozspeaksup
August 17, 2018 10:57 pm

You are so right OZ .On one of my many visits to your land I met a farmer who farmed somewhere north of Adelaide and he told me he ran 180 hereford breeding cows and then I asked him how big the farm was .Oh its a run he said 180000 acres it is so dry that we run 1 cow to 1000 acres .

Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 17, 2018 9:47 am

I suspect described barley yields went down because rain raised your water table & previously flushed downward accumulated mineral “salt” solubilized back upward to create a nimbus of ions around the barley roots which in turn altered plant nutrient uptake.

Reply to  Peta of Newark
August 17, 2018 4:09 pm

Perhaps you could have grown some clover as a cover crop to help reestablish the soil?

August 17, 2018 6:05 am

Bravo,Viv, another burst of commonsense delivered with clarity. Thank you.

August 17, 2018 7:06 am

oh so very well written;-)
pity our pollies cant read plain english and understand common sense isnt it?
feeling guilty down sth as we get yet more rain and locals are muttering about too much and yellowing crops. Im just going everywhere in gumboots and enjoying it. my drought plans a tad iffy no money to buy bigger tanks or dig a dam and no town water;-(
the good bit is with 4 winters of decent rains the artesians a lot LESS salty and less iron sulphide gas when pumping it.
local ducks and ibis are breeding happily and getting fat on masses of frogs ditto the kookaburras and the hawks are doing well
and the imminent mouse plague stopped as they seem to have drowned(i hope)
at least we should do ok for pasture and hay so we should be able to keep assisting those further nth in drought.

August 17, 2018 8:51 am

In the period of low solar activity, there are actually more clouds above the oceans. The reason for this is the lazy jetstream, which forms the upper lows above the oceans.
That is why there are heat waves on the continents. However, the surface of the oceans is cooled.
Now the Great Barrier Reef can rest.
comment image

Reply to  ren
August 17, 2018 9:16 am

I guess that “blocking highs” over land keep the lows and their rainfall over the sea, that was certainly the case recently in Southern England, around 6 weeks with barely a cloud in the sky.

Reply to  climanrecon
August 17, 2018 9:53 am

Look at the temperature of the Atlantic west of Great Britain.
comment image

Reply to  ren
August 18, 2018 4:25 pm

This map shows anomaly, not temp.

Reply to  ren
August 17, 2018 11:46 am

Please see the size of the cloud cover above the southern eastern Pacific.
comment image

August 17, 2018 8:59 am

In Australia this winter there are strong stratospheric intrusions.
“Stratospheric Intrusions commonly follow strong cold fronts and can extend across multiple states. In satellite imagery, Stratospheric Intrusions are identified by very low moisture levels in the water vapor channels (6.2, 6.5, and 6.9 micron).”
comment image

Alan Tomalty
August 17, 2018 10:26 am

Most municipalities in Canada charge for water by even metering it.

Vanessa Smith
August 17, 2018 10:56 am

What a brilliant article – everyone on earth should read it !

Richard Bell
August 17, 2018 11:05 am

I apologize if this was already mentioned where I did not see it.

Desalinization plants, when combined with a sensible energy policy, actually make the cost of electricity go down. They can even improve grid stability. The electric motors driving the reverse osmosis pumps are effectively a spinning reserve. When run 24/7, the pumps are best satisfied with base load capacity– large thermal generating stations, which are also the cheapest sources of electrical power, due to economies of scale. As there will be storage capacity in the water system, a sudden increase in demand can be handled by switching off the pump motors. Switching off the pumps to reduce demand reduces the need for fast response peaking generation (often the most expensive source of dispatchable power). To compensate for fresh water not produced during power demand peaks, the desalinization plant is run at surge capacity when electricity demand is low.

Reducing the height of demand peaks and filling in the valleys of low demand is called “load leveling”. Load leveling reduces the overall cost of electricity by allowing the most economical generators (which also have the longest response time to changes in demand) to form a larger fraction of the generator mix which decreases the overall costs.

A brief segue to the Unit Commitment Problem:

Having enough generators spinning and ready to supply power for the expected demand curve, at the least cost, is the electric power industry’s version of the travelling salesmen problem, and it is equally unsolvable. For simplicity, each available generator is identified by its power rating and the minimum time it must be run to be economically spun up. The large thermal generators run for the least money, but have long minimum run times. Small gas turbine driven generators are among the most expensive, but can be on for the least amount of time to be worth running, at all. Nuclear generating stations have the additional problem that there is a minimum time between when it stopped running and when it can restart. Hydroelectric generators are limited in their running time by the level of water in the reservoir. Wind and solar power are only as predictable as the weather, so they vastly increase the difficulty of optimizing the supply of power. The ‘Best’ solution (which is still pretty bad) is to have groups of users whose demand is as intermittent as the renewable supply who pay for positions on the priority queue to get power as it is available (as these consumers could virtue signal how they are ONLY getting their power from the wind and sun, people might actually pay for the privilege of an unreliable electricity supply).

August 17, 2018 5:05 pm

The one point I would make here is Australians ARE paying a base amount for water AND power. But then our treasonous Govts have sold off the infrastructure to private enterprise and NOT given us the money back that we pay in our taxes.

So suggesting we now pay ANOTHER base amount means doubling up and you can bet it will decrease neither water nor power bills. The Govt will just suck it in and send it overseas to countries that hate everything about us.

Robert B
August 17, 2018 5:10 pm

“Some places like Perth in Western Australia with low rainfall ” it actually has high rainfall >700 mm or nearly 30″, nearly all in winter and dams to capture a few years worth but run off has dropped off 6 fold when rainfall is only 15% down. It doesn’t actually need desalination.

August 17, 2018 10:43 pm

A very well written essay Viv and I agree 100% with your stance.
Here in New Zealand we do not have the vast dry areas of Australia but our east coast regions can suffer from extreme droughts at times .
We have the same Greens and WWF screaming at every new irrigation project and it is now almost impossible to build a new dam.
I like your phrase “let the rivers irrigate the oceans ”
This is what the anti dam brigade are wanting to impose on both our countries , and they cannot be held responsible for stopping progress and wealth creation for many regions.
.For some reason dams and water storage are bad and these activists have never thought the water cycle through and cannot see that when rivers are in flood water can be captured for immense benefit to a region when drought or dry conditions take hold .
A columnist Tom Oconner writing in the Waikato times wants to knock down some or all of the eight hydro dams on the Waikato river .These dams are not used for irrigation but were built by the government in the 1900s to supply cheap electric power to the North Island .
In his column he stated that the Waikato river was but a stream .What a tosser , in Hamilton the river runs at 155 cu secs and the same amount of water flows down the river as it always did , but it is held back by the hydro dams in times of flood to the benefit low lying areas .
These people who are against dams and irrigation are actually enemies of the country, near enough to economic criminals.
The liberal left love them but the Labor party was founded by working people and these policies hurt working people and restrict economic activity in dry areas .
Then again what have these activists ever grown in the way of food crops or live stock farming .

August 17, 2018 10:52 pm

Some good points and some threadbare and contradictory arguments.

Farmers must give up their land for dams to water ever-growing cities (why?):
yet the ‘rights’ of present day graziers and farmers to irrigate must be respected.

I’d say even now the main opponents of dams are and always were those very same graziers whose land will be lost. No need to invoke the boogie-man of ‘pampered urban greenies’ which just sets the cat among the pigeons.

There is a real tension between competing aspects here: urban vs rural, mining vs grazing, old vs new, a vast dry continent which is increasingly densely urbanised in a handful of places. You need to admit that, and that neither you nor anyone else knows how the dichotomies can be resolved.

Reply to  curious
August 19, 2018 1:32 am

Reply to Curious .
Dams have a footprint ,that goes without saying and land has been brought at times compulsory by governments to build water storage and hydro dams .
With increasing population water has to be supplied to cities and towns ./How would you like to have lived in Cape Town and what if the city had run out of water .
What I wrote about is water storage dams for irrigation and these dams are usually built in New Zealand on land that is brought by the irrigation companies which owed by farmer share holders .
In New Zealand a dam was stopped from being built in the Hawkes Bay by the Greens .The local council were helping to get this dam built and it was stopped because a land swap was not allowed to go ahead .
The land that was to be gives as a reserve was far better native bush than the scrub area that going to be flooded.
Hawkes Bay is the fruit bowl of New Zealand and irrigation can make a tremendous to a region that can suffer from extreme droughts some years .
The same sort of thing is happening in Canterbury where water was to be taken from the Rangitata river when the snow thaw is underway and the Selwyn river was to be recharged as well of irrigating the plains .
The Selwyn river is the greens poster boy .The river is drying up they cry but it is not snow fed and runs through shingle .There is no irrigation taken from the Selwyn .I will repeat what I said earlier these people against dams are economic criminals .

August 18, 2018 11:17 am

I am gonna say something 100% true but earthshaking to some people: There is almost no place on Earth where anyone would want to live that does not get more than enough rain to meet any needs we might ever have.
There is no shortage of water, anywhere, ever.
It is simply bad management: When floods occur, vast amounts of water wash into the sea completely wasted.
At the same time as these floods are occurring, it is pretty much axiomatic that some adjacent geographical area is in a drought.
Rain never has and never will fall evenly over time or evenly over a large area.
There will always be droughts and always be floods.
The answer is obvious to anyone willing to look for it: Store and transport water in far larger amounts and distances than is being done.
Every year the US has multiple floods, so large that for any one of them, the excess rain that falls and is flushed to the sea by rivers, is far greater than all the water used by all the people in the whole country in that whole year.

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