Friday, 25 September 2009


Co-ordinator of the Australian Water Network, Bernard Eddy, has this to say to-day:


Anyone wanting a clear insight into the central issues of the nation’s witless water work could do no better than keep a close eye on developments in Adelaide.
·        It has the lowest annual rainfall of all major population centres.
·        It’s the only city to opt for privatised water supplies and legal problems are brewing over alleged excess billing arrangements by United Water.
·        United Water’s contract is up for renewal next year.
·        The place is on the wrong end of the bitterly contested water from the Murray River.
·        High Court and constitutional challenges are either in progress or brewing in the four state squabbles over water allocations and buyback deals.
·        Recent groundbreaking innovations in Adelaide’s central plains could benefit all Australians by making innovative use of water stored in aquifers.

Once again, as in the case of Peter Andrew’s natural sequence farming, the lateral thinking has come from years of innovation, hard work and instinctive common sense: sadly foreign to mainstream federal and state water management.

Colin Pitman, former farmer, shearer and abalone diver has created 53 wetlands on the Salisbury Plains based on ideas inspired by a project which effectively purified storm water, freeing it of potassium, phosphorous and heavy metals.  Inspired by the successful installation of a series of catchment ponds, Colin discovered that most impurities can be removed in a very short time. The idea grew to creating wetland storm-water catchment areas and then pumping the part processed water into aquifers for later retrieval for industrial use, and, more recently as potable water.

Colin’s vision is the adoption of this process by other council’s: a national take-up is the obvious end goal.

A recent media release dated Monday, September 21st by Mark Parnell (SA Greens MLC) headed ‘Yesterday’s Rain – today’s Lost Opportunity’ lends further perspective.

Heavy rain in urban South Australia over the last few days has filled both major storage dams. But a huge amount has simply drained into the sea.

"Every downpour is another forceful reminder that we are not doing enough to capture the precious rain that falls on the Adelaide plains," says Mark Parnell.

"We need to dramatically lift our sights and embrace this world leading technology as major part of our water future. In just one hour yesterday enough rain fell on Adelaide to reduce our annual draw from the Murray by 7-8%,"

Approximately 25mm was dumped on the city in just one hour yesterday.  According to Colin Pitman from the Salisbury Wetlands, yesterday's rain equates to about 7-8 of Adelaide's yearly consumption from the River Murray.  The critical need is for a decent network of wetlands to capture and store the rainwater.

Just last week the CSIRO announced that storm water from the Salisbury wetlands is clean enough to be bottled for drinking. 

Speaking on the ABC Radio National programme Innovations, Colin Pitman said “Adelaide sits on a huge aquifer system with lots of potential storage.” The Parafield Airport wetland is one of eight wetlands in the area connected to aquifers.

‘To actually pump the collected storm water underground is groundbreaking.”

The project developed by Salisbury Council is attracting good business. Mitchells, a wool processing mill uses 60,000 litres per day. Nearly all the water is supplied by the Council from recycled storm/groundwater. The impurities have been removed by organisms in the aquifer which remove 90% of the pathogens in the first few hours.

The price structure is equally refreshing. It costs about 70 cents to a dollar a kilolitre for storm/ground water (depending on volume). This is half the average cost of standard water supply operations ( $1.80 - $2.00).

As a further step, residential developments at Mawson Lakes operating on a two pipe water supply system (purple denoting storm/groundwater) is now being built catering to 10,000 dwellings.

The point is Adelaide’s total annual storm water run-off is in advance of annual usage; hence the potential to allow the city to become independent of the Murray River is achievable.

The water saved would then be available to flow to the mouth of the river which is facing total environmental obliteration.
The success of the Salisbury Plains project has attracted world attention: sooner of later our elected caretakers will see the benefit of long-term investment in sensible solutions and abandon ad-hoc panic attacks which see billions of dollars handed  to corporations which ignore our water sovereignty and the environment. 
Bernard Eddy
Australian Water Network
Mobile: 0447 605 057


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