We have seen events occurring globally which indicate an acceleration in the pace of climate change. We have entered a new era of very dangerous climate impacts which are already proving catastrophic in many parts of the world. These are pushing the global climate system into uncharted territory.
"Climate breakdown has begun," says United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres in an article under the headline, "Sydney's running out of water, and we haven't been paying attention" (The Sydney Morning Herald 4.9.23 p.12).
We, in the MidCoast Council area, have been experiencing some of these changes already. There has been a shift towards drier conditions across the southwest and southeast of Australia, with more years recording below-average rainfall. For example, there has been a decline in about 15 per cent of rainfall since 1970 for the region. Meanwhile, it's getting hotter, which means rain evaporates quickly rather than flowing into the catchment ('Spring heat records shattered as Australia warms towards a long hot summer' in The Sydney Morning Herald 18.9.23 online). Pockets of NSW are showing signs of drought, including areas adjacent to us.
The editor of the MRT has wisely suggested that "History has taught us to plan to survive." (from the Editor's Desk 9.9.2023). To their credit MCC adopted the 'Our Water, Our Future' strategy at the August council meeting.
We believe that the strategy does not go far enough quickly enough, as much of it is based on records and modelling that is not reflective of the significant climate changes we are experiencing and will experience in the next few years.
Providing water and sewerage services like all areas of council's operation is an expensive business. As you'd expect councils are reluctant to do something different or new because it is expensive and who is pushing them to anyway. With climate change and uncertainty of security our council must do better sooner than later.
If it is an emergency or crisis we cannot wait 27 years to seriously consider the recycling and reuse of the water in our stormwater and sewerage systems. Work needs to begin now.- Chris and Heather Abbott
As we are dealing with a scarce resource, one major option is turning stormwater and sewage into clean water. Many cities do this already, including Perth WA and Singapore. By 2060, the latter anticipates that 85 per cent of its water demand will be met by sewage water. California is exploring plans to do the same. What is MCC doing in regard to this option? According to 'Our Water, Our Future' MCC will be waiting till 2050 to begin to do something in this regard. It may well be too late by then.
The current NSW Minister for Water, Rose Jackson, recognises the circumstances MCC finds itself in and has said, "We know our regional communities always bear the brunt of devastating droughts and it is crucial they are given the resources and infrastructure to improve water security at the local level to ensure they can survive dry times." So, surely building a new dam or three, increasing the extraction of water from the Nabiac bore fields and doing more with water recycling and reuse needs to be presented to national and state governments and claim our share of the funds to provide those resources and infrastructure. We are told we are in a climate crisis or emergency. Such a crisis or emergency demands we need to act now not later to address the causes.
Whilst MCC has adopted the 'Our Water, Our Future 2050' strategy it is far from the answer councillors and council officers say it is. Some speak of water as an infinite resource. Yet we know that fresh water is an extremely limited resource on our planet, in this country and in the MCC area. Some are already telling us to cut usage now. Both these points are contrasted in the items presented by the MRT on the same publication date last week (15.9.23).
If it is an emergency or crisis we cannot wait 27 years to seriously consider the recycling and reuse of the water in our stormwater and sewerage systems. Work needs to begin now on this to help secure a future water supply along with the dams and Nabiac aquifer. Otherwise it will be too late.
Chris and Heather Abbott