Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Fears over Yarragadee aquifer approval plans

March 19, 2007 - The ABC reports that Western Australia's Conservation Council is warning the State Government to be wary of advice that tapping the Yarragadee aquifer, in the state's south-west, is sustainable...



The Water Corporation is pushing to take 45 gigalitres of water from the aquifer a year for Perth's water supplies. The Minister for Water Resources, John Kobelke, is expected to present a report from the state's sustainability panel on the aquifer proposal.

The WA Conservation Council's Chris Tallentire says the report states the plan is sustainable if triggers are put in place to lower or stop the pumping if damage is detected in the local environment.

The Water Corporation says its plan will have little impact on the region's environment, but Mr Tallentire says there are many other reports that show the opposite.

"We understand that there are a number of consultants' reports that have gone to the panel that have actually indicated that water levels in the south-west Yarragadee area are dropping," he said.

Friends of Yarragadee spokesman Trevor Larke described the report as a 'cop-out', saying the Government’s support for the controversial plan had been a foregone conclusion.

Mr Larke said in corporate media reports that the panel had "ignored the social and environmental impacts which are going to happen to us here." He said opponents of the proposal, who have organised a rally at Parliament later this month which is expected to attract up to 5000 people, would not give up and had vowed to punish Labor at the next election if the proposal went ahead.

Shadow environment minister Steve Thomas claimed the Government would not enforce meaningful triggers on reducing the take from the aquifer after spending $700 million on it. He said the extra 45GL would push the total extraction from the aquifer to 120GL a year, putting pressure on wetlands and tuart forests.

Panel Chair, Barbara Wiese, said the Panel had concluded that the sustainability evaluation undertaken was comprehensive and thorough. "The Panel believes the SW Yarragadee proposal will be sustainable and should be allowed to proceed subject to the implementation of stringent adaptive management and monitoring commitments of the Water Corporation and the recommended conditions of the EPA", she said.

The State Appeals Convener will complete a report into more than 60 formal objections to the EPA’s conditional approval of the Yarragadee proposal by the end of the month. The WA Government is facing fierce opposition to the Yarragadee plan from local residents, farmers and green groups, who argue that tapping the aquifer will cause nearby rivers to dry up, inflicting widespread environmental and commercial damage.

Earlier this month South-West Environment Centre and Friends of the Yarragadee Coalition spokesman John Sherwood urged the Government not to be rushed or blackmailed into making a decision and to carefully assess the impact of drawing vast amounts of water from the aquifer and the potential of alternative sources.

[The Water Corporation wants to spend up to $700 million to take an extra 45 gigalitres a year from the aquifer by the end of 2009 to ensure the metropolitan area’s water supplies to 2015, reduce the prospect of sprinkler bans and negate the immediate need for a second desalination plant.]

Yarragadee wins top-level approval - The West
Yarragadee delay risks sprinkler ban - The West
Yarragadee plan sustainable: Panel - WA Business News - Community Action

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