Like what you've read?

On Line Opinion is the only Australian site where you get all sides of the story. We don't
charge, but we need your support. Here�s how you can help.

  • Advertise

    We have a monthly audience of 70,000 and advertising packages from $200 a month.

  • Volunteer

    We always need commissioning editors and sub-editors.

  • Contribute

    Got something to say? Submit an essay.

 The National Forum   Donate   Your Account   On Line Opinion   Forum   Blogs   Polling   About   
On Line Opinion logo ON LINE OPINION - Australia's e-journal of social and political debate


On Line Opinion is a not-for-profit publication and relies on the generosity of its sponsors, editors and contributors. If you would like to help, contact us.


RSS 2.0

Damn the dams

By Harriet Smith - posted Friday, 2 October 2015

Cast your mind back to 2007 to the wretched years of drought and desolation. When the head of the Climate Commission told us all categorically that, "the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams and our river systems." Dire warnings from an eminent scientist and respected climate guru.

The reason, we were told, was climate change; now commonly referred to as climate variability. Biblical tales of drought, fire and famine was all the future held unless we could stop burning fossil fuels to run our cities, and maintain a high standard of living.

We invested in desalination technology, and experimented in Toowoomba with recycled water. We built pipelines to carry the water; and when those pipelines were mistakenly built on the wrong side of highways, we moved the highways. If we couldn't control our environment, we could utilise 'sustainable' resources to fill the necessary void.


We were a shining example to the rest of the world. World leaders in sustainability.

Until the weather intervened.

The El Nino broke its seemingly endless hold and we were back to rain, floods, and low travelling cyclones. The dams that would never fill again gushed with the life-blood of agricultural lands.

We were saved, and some ruined, in one swift blow. The intensity caught us off guard, but we saw the return to full dam capacity in a short number of months. Politicians and community interests turned away from the desperate measures during the deficit of fresh water. Billion dollar desalination plants, advocated by the former Climate Commissioner and Australian of the Year, lay in wasteful ruin, while the pipelines lay empty.

Never underestimate the power of incentives to focus a society's attention.

The Bureau of Meteorology publishes an extensive history of the sibling El Niño/La Niña events that have been a recurrent and constant feature of Australian life from before records have been kept. El Niños cause widespread low rainfall, high heat and drought. La Niña, the opposite: high-intensity cyclones and high rainfall across our most populous coastal areas. It would be logical to conclude that some reliance could be made on them occurring, and thus, we could manage our fresh water needs around them. Accordingly, when population demands expand, we should be looking at expanding capacity in the most reliable and efficient way available to us: dams.


During our long period of drought, we should have been planning for future weather conditions. We know, as has been recently reported, that an El Niño is on its way. Why have we not prepared for when we revert back to dry conditions with low rainfall? We have allowed Green groups and interest-groups dictate the hierarchy of human needs. They need to be reminded that the billions of dollars wasted on desalination plants because of hard-lined principles of environmental protection could have been used to fund conservation programmes, or more importantly, pension funds.

We will have docile politicians scratching their heads in ignorance of their own policy failures to provide long-term for the future. The next generation of self-interested numpties scrambling and clambering for a solution to a problem they should have fixed when they had the opportunity, instead of selling out to the loudest yeller.

  1. Pages:
  2. Page 1
  3. All

Discuss in our Forums

See what other readers are saying about this article!

Click here to read & post comments.

10 posts so far.

Share this:
reddit this reddit thisbookmark with Del.icio.usdigg thisseed newsvineSeed NewsvineStumbleUpon StumbleUponsubmit to propellerkwoff it

About the Author

Harriet Smith is doing a Masters in Economics.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Harriet Smith

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

Article Tools
Comment 10 comments
Print Printable version
Subscribe Subscribe
Email Email a friend

About Us Search Discuss Feedback Legals Privacy