Friday, November 03, 2006

Tapping Yarragadee would be a disaster - Professor

by Elliot K - Perth Indymedia 2006-10-11 11:05 AM +0800

11 OCTOBER 2006: Professor says Yarragadee would be a disaster. UWA professor Steve Hoppersays Perth shouldn't draw its water from the South-West. The UWA plant conservation biology professor warned this week that drawing water from Yarragadee would be a big mistake...
--- The Margaret River Regional Environment centre has organised an information day on the Yarragadee on Saturday, October 14, at the resource centre from 10am-4pm. Guest speakers and events. All welcome. ---

A strong advocate for conservation, and preservation of natural heritage and resources, Dr Hopper said the push for WA to draw groundwater from Yarragadee in the South-West would result in irreparable environmental damage.

"Yarragadee is going to have a major impact on local communities and on the globally unique plants and animals down south and in the area around Nannup," he said. "If you start putting bores in and drawing groundwater, the first things affected are shallow bodies of water, like ponds, which are groundwater-fed.

"A drop in ground level of half a metre will affect them ahead of deep lakes and rivers because they are full of plants and animals unique to south-western Australia and are significant globally. The environmental impacts are pretty scary and Yarragadee is only a short-term solution.

"People need to think long and hard about it; is it the start of a solution or a stop-gap that's going to cause long-term environmental damage? It doesn't solve the basic problem which is the expanding human population without a change in how we use water."

Dr Hopper said the Water Corporation was on track, looking at a mix of strategies to source water, including establishing a desalination plant and recycling grey water. But Yarragadee was a repeat of the Gnangara Mounds strategy. "If you look at Gnangarra Mounds it's pretty disturbing," he said.

"Some dams in Perth have had a decline in rainfall up to 50% and the Gnangara Mounds supplies are dwindling rapidly." Dr Hopper said the community needed to embrace recycling water as a long-term strategy with local councils working together with householders.

"Hundreds of gigalitres go off the roads and our roofs every year," he said. "If we got only half of that back, that's the same amount the South-West Yarragadee is going to deliver. "There's a huge catchment of water that, with adequate treatment, would be perfect.

"If we want to live here for hundreds of years we've got to start doing things slightly differently."

The Western Australian Opposition has raised new questions over the Government's ability to manage the proposed Yarragadee aquifer project in the state's south-west. It has seized on the Environmental Protection Authority's (EPA) criticism of the Government's monitoring of natural resources.

The Opposition says the EPA's annual report says the Department of Environment and Conservation does not always comply with ministerial conditions. Opposition environment spokesman Steve Thomas says he is concerned about how the Government will manage the Yarragadee aquifer if the proposal to take water from it for Perth goes ahead.

"If the Environmental Protection Authority says that the Department of Environment can't properly monitor or refuses to properly monitor the ground water supplies in those mounds, and those aquifers, how can we have any confidence in the south-west that they'll be able to do the same thing for the Yarragadee?" he said.

Four years in development, the South-West Yarragadee project has a price tag of $617 million: $445 million in building costs and $172 million to upgrade water infrastructure to cope with increased flow.

WA is seeking a 50 per cent contribution from the Commonwealth towards the project in keeping with the Prime Minister’s invitation at July’s Council of Australian Governments meeting for States to come up with big water projects to be partfunded by the $2 billion Australian Government Water Fund.

The Yarragadee aquifer would deliver about 45 gigalitres a year to Perth and is considered by some experts to be the only viable major new water source in the short term. The Water Corporation, which has already begun planning a 110km pipeline, wants to get Yarragadee water flowing into households by September 2009.

Last week Howard flagged that the state is set to get more than $300 million from the Federal Government to help it extract water from the Yarragadee aquifer.

The Yarragadee holds 800,000 gigalitres (800 billion litres) of fresh water. That would fill about 1400 Sydney Harbours or, closer to home, about 15 million Wellington Dams. It stretches from north of Bunbury to the south coast.

Post Newspaper
ABC News
Perth Indymedia - Hundreds Protest in Bunbury
The West
South West Yarragadee - Water Dept

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