WATER LESSONS LOST: A nearly empty Borumba Dam in November 2002.
WATER LESSONS LOST: A nearly empty Borumba Dam in November 2002.

Water wars get started as past lessons quickly forgotten

"WHISKEY is for drinking; water is for fighting over."

Most desk calendars attribute the comment to Mark Twain, but whoever said it first, Gympie region will soon experience its sentiments directly, as governments at all levels promote economic and population growth.

Both require water, and this week Gympie Regional Council received the Regional Water Supply Security Assessment, prepared by the state department of Energy and Water Supply.

But the report seems to show that the lessons of the drought of the early 21st Century, the one that ended only a few years ago and which prompted a desperate Beattie Government to propose the Traveston Crossing dam, have already been forgotten.

The new report seems to rely on bureaucratic assumptions which are not the same as actual water.


Readers can assess it for themselves in the council meeting's minutes.

It talks about water allocations for Noosa, the Sunshine Coast, and Brisbane and the diverse and thirsty farming, urban and industrial demand within Gympie region itself.

Its wording seems to imply that there is plenty to go around, as long as it costs enough to discourage excessive use.

But low-cost methods of ensuring household water security and encouraging responsible consumption, particularly rainwater tanks, are ignored.

Tanks came back into fashion this century as the drought bit hard.

So did other water-conservation methods, not all of them consistent with the view of water as a commodity to be rationed by market forces.

Then Premier Peter Beattie used the word armageddon and water emerged as a precious resource, one we almost ran out of.

But the word "tank" does not appear anywhere in the report, as it talks of a future in which Gympie region's 2015 population of 21,000 is predicted to grow to 22,662 by 2021 and to 27,133 by 2036.

At the same time industrial water demand is being encouraged to grow as a source of employment and prosperity. And irrigation farming, an industry in which even now farmers do not always have the water they are paying for, is not expected to decline.

The report talks about "demand management through optimisation of the reticulation system, education of the community in water saving measures and appropriately applied tariffs."

It claims "there are no reported supply failures for high priority (urban supplies) from Borumba Dam since the scheme was constructed in 1964."

But during the now-forgotten drought, Gympie came so close to running dry that emergency releases had to be negotiated from the Obi Obi dam.

Click on this link to read the report on the Gympie Regional Council Minutes of this week's meeting (search for water in the attachments):


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