Early Environmentalists and the Battle Against Sewers in Sydney

 

 

Early Environmentalists and the Battle Against Sewers in Sydney

Sharon Beder


Citation: Sharon Beder, Early Environmentalists and the Battle Against Sewers in Sydney, Royal Australian Historical Society Journal, vol. 76, no. 1, June 1990, pp27-44.This is a final version submitted for publication.
Minor editorial changes may have subsequently been made.
Sharon Beder’s Other Publications


    1. THE WATER-CARRIAGE DEBATE
    2. ARGUMENTS OVER EFFICACY
    3. ORDER, SOCIAL CONTROL & PROGRESS
    4. ENGINEERS AND PROFESSIONAL CONTROL
    5. CONCLUSION – ANALYSIS OF A CONTROVERSY

Sewage pollution has reached crisis proportions in Sydney and for small towns throughout New South Wales, the introduction of a sewerage system is no longer such an attractive proposition. The alternatives put forward by groups like Friends of the Earth, which involve the use of decentralised on-site sewage treatment units placed in people’s back yards, are gaining popularity over the conventional method of transportating sewage in pipes to a centralised treatment plant which discharges into the town’s main waterway or the ocean. And the come-back of backyard sewage treatment is happening for the same reasons that sewers were opposed in the nineteenth century: because it is perceived that sewers lead to water pollution and waste resources.

The use of flush toilets and water to transport wastes was an old idea dating back as far as 2800 BC to the Minoans and also the Chalcolithics.[1] Despite the antiquity of such systems, referred to later as ‘water carriage’ systems, they were relatively new in nineteenth century Britain and were considered to be a modern, progressive method of dealing with wastes. Sanitary reform was virtually synonymous with sewer construction and Britain provided the model for Australia.

In the latter half of the nineteenth century water-carriage methods were challenged by those who preferred dry conservancy methods of dealing with the human wastes. The movement against water-carriage gained much of its impetus from community dissatisfaction with the gross environmental pollution which early sewer systems had been responsible for.

The first city sewers in Sydney were constructed in the 1850s and discharged raw sewage directly into the Harbour at Fort Macquarie (now Bennelong Point, the site of the Opera House). By 1875 there were sewage outlets at five different points in the Harbour and each was causing a nuisance. (see figure 1) A committee appointed by the Board to examine the outlets found that at Rushcutters’ Bay an extensive and stinking mud flat had formed which was exposed at low tide. At Woolloomooloo Bay a large bank had formed and sewage floated on the surface of the salt water, oscillating back and forth with the movement of the tides. At Fort Macquarie a ‘considerable bank’ had formed and certain winds blew effluvia over ‘a considerable area of the northern part of the city.’ The water flowing from the Tank Stream into Sydney Cove was inky in colour, ‘apparently putrescent, and floated on the surface of the Bay’ for a considerable distance. Finally at Darling Harbour, the committee described accumulating banks of ‘filthy and putrid mud’.[2]

The government was lobbied to clean up the mess throughout the 1870s. A petition signed by 3,800 people complained that the existing system of sewerage:

has resulted in depositing all the filth of the city in the harbour, rendering all business occupations upon its shores disgustingly offensive, largely increasing the sickness of the citizens, and silting up year by year navigable water to a large extent. [3]

The petitioners complained that the state of the harbour was well known overseas and was ‘discouraging immigration and hindering trade’. Owners of waterside properties were especially disadvantaged by having the ‘excreta and offscouring of a hundred thousand people’ cast upon them. ‘The sewer evil’ had been caused by the government and should be cleaned up by the government.[4]Complaints had also been received from the Imperial naval authorities about the unhealthiness of the anchorage-grounds. Early in 1875 typhoid fever had broken out on board a moored ‘man-of-war’ ship and they attributed it to noxious gases coming from the sewer outlet at Fort Macquarie.[5]

In 1877 the Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board recommended that the city sewage be intercepted and diverted. They proposed that the north draining sewage be piped to Bondi and discharged into the sea at Ben Buckler Point and that the south draining sewage including that of Surry Hills, Redfern and Newtown be piped to a sewage farm, either on the lower part of Shea’s Creek (now Alexandria Canal) near Botany Bay or on Webb’s Grant on the Southern edge of Botany Bay.[6]

THE WATER-CARRIAGE DEBATE

This decision prompted public debate over the merits of water-carriage technology which was as fierce in Sydney as anywhere in the world. In a paper which was read before the Engineering Association of New South Wales in 1884 Gustave Fischer, a local civil engineer, compared the feelings on the issue to those of religious faith:

An out-and-out water-carriage advocate would go to the stake in support of his views, while the advocates of the different systems are equally bigoted in their own way…This excessive orthodoxy…tends to make men narrow-minded and bigoted, and incapable of taking a broad and impartial view. [7]

The debate was not confined to engineers or professionals however. The newspapers regularly published editorials and letters to the editor arguing the advantages and disadvantages of water-carriage schemes and dry conservancy schemes. The issue was covered almost every day in the Herald in March 1880.The alternatives to water-carriage technology which were put forward at the time did not include an improved cesspit system. Cesspits were not considered as a serious alternative because they were closely identified with insanitary conditions and disease. Although regulations were established to ensure that they were more adequately constructed, appropriately sited and regularly cleansed, the idea of continuing with a cesspit system was out of the question. Reforms had been called for and politically, drastic changes were required. No-one trusted the cesspit system any longer.

The dry conservancy systems which were put forward as serious alternatives included dry closets and pan systems. The dry closet (often referred to as the earth closet), named in contrast to the water-closet or flush toilet, did not use water to wash away the excrement but rather was a means of collecting the solid excrement in a container. (see figure 2) The addition of earth, ashes or charcoal after each visit to the closet deodorised the excrement which was periodically collected at night by cart and taken to a processing plant where it was dried out for use as manure.

The pan system consisted of having a pan under the toilet seat which was collected by night-men at regular intervals and replaced with an empty one. The pan was able to take urine as well as faeces and did not require the use of earth for deodorising. One version of the pan system was described at an 1889 meeting of the Engineering Association of N.S.W. by E.W.Cracknell.[8] A collection pan would be fitted to the toilet seat forming an air-tight joint which would prevent the escape of noxious gases. The full pans would be carted to a place where the pans would be emptied, washed out mechanically and returned with a measure of deodorant. The contents would be treated and made into cakes of manure. The NSW Poudrette and Ammonia Company, he claimed, already produced manure in this way at a profit.[9]

The main advantage put forward for all dry conservancy systems was their ability to utilise the waste as fertiliser. There was an element of the population in Sydney, as in Britain, that found the idea of utilising the sewage to be an attractive one. Such utilisation was already practiced informally in many parts of the world. It had been the hope of some of the early sanitary reformers that the sewage collected in sewers could be utilised on sewage farms. Edwin Chadwick, the renowned British sanitary reformer, had observed that sewage in Edinburgh was in much demand by the farmers and he persistently advocated the utilisation of sewage. At this time the Herald warned that ‘We shall not always be able to rob the soil, and give it nothing in return’.[10]

Dry conservancy adherents wanted to see human wastes being utilised as fertiliser but they argued that by mixing water with sewage, as occurred in water-carriage systems, the ‘constituent parts’ were spoiled.[11] Moreover, they argued, the use of water-carriage technology limited the area over which fertilizer could be used whereas dry conservancy methods allowed the manufacture of poudrette cakes which could be transported where required. Dry conservancy ensured that ‘the whole agricultural value of the excrement’ was retained and that the resulting manure was in a form in which it could be stored and transported easily. Dry conservancy methods were also conservative of water, even if sewers were used for other household wastes, because water would not be required for toilet flushing.[12] This was no minor consideration in Sydney which had a history of inadequate water supply.

The Sanitary Reform League, originally named the League for the Prevention of Pollution of Air and Water, was formed in Sydney in 1880 to press for alternatives to the Sewage and Health Board scheme of piping the sewage to the sea at Bondi. Many of the League’s members including their founder, Sir James Martin, the NSW Chief Justice, favoured dry conservancy methods and were prominent in pushing the case for dry conservancy. They criticised water-carriage as a technology that was not only wasteful but also detrimental to the environment and public health. Martin, in a series of letters published in 1880 in the Sydney Morning Herald under the heading ‘The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness’, criticised the proposed scheme of sewerage because of the air and water pollution it would cause.[13] Air pollution was a particularly damning accusation since it was believed that ‘miasmas’ were responsible for many of the life-threatening diseases around at that time.

Sewer gas was a big problem in the nineteenth century when knowledge of how to trap the gas and prevent its return back into homes and city streets was scarce and workmanship in sewer construction often cheap and shoddy. Because of this at least one town in England, Manchester, converted from water-carriage to ‘the apparently safer and more effective dry conservancy method.’[14] A letter writer to the Herald argued:

A well sewered town may be described as supplied with a system of subterranean retorts, so arranged that the fluids in passing give off the largest volume of gases, which are carefully collected, and then by means of chimney pipes (for house drains serve admirably that purpose), conducted into the very heart of the dwellings.[15]

In many parts of the world early sewers had been built to carry off stormwater drainage and when they were converted to take sewage they did not cope very well. They were often large diameter (big enough for a person to walk through) brick construction which meant that flows were slow and sometimes stagnant. They were frequently obstructed by large objects or a build up of solids, and faulty joints permitted a substantial amount of subsoil leakage.In Sydney it was found in 1875 that of 5,400 water closets supplied by mains water, 4,500 had a direct connection between the toilet pan and the water pipe supplying flushing water so that when the water supply was cut off, as it frequently was, toilet waste could be sucked back into the water mains. The Sewage and Health Board noted:

The certain consequence of this most unusual arrangement is, that the water supplied to the inhabitants for household purposes is polluted with matter which some high authorities consider too offensive to be admitted even to the public sewers.[16]

The other big problem associated with water-carriage technology was the nuisance generally created at the point of discharge. Because of cost constraints and a certain measure of ignorance, and particularly because water carriage meant that there was a substantial liquid component to dispose of, most early sewers were discharged into the nearest watercourse. This rapidly led to the fouling of that watercourse which was generally quite close to the town and often the source of water supply for that town or one downstream. In Sydney it was the Harbour which was polluted and this was considered to be a public health threat because of the ‘miasmas’ which were coming off the harbour waters and shores.The pollution from sewr gases and untreated discharges therefore sullied the reputation of water-carriage systems and a letter to the Herald warned:

what a pity then, if youthful blooming Australian cities were to begrime themselves with European folly in the shape of sewage by water carriage with their inevitable melancholy train of cholera, typhus, and exhaustion of the soil.[17]

Dry conservancy methods did not have such a good image either. They were inevitably associated with the old cesspit system. Water-carriage at least removed the source of the problem from the home, quickly and efficiently. It was thought that if the sewage was allowed any time to putrefy or decompose it would give rise to ‘miasmas’. Therefore if the sewage was allowed to sit around waiting for collection for the purposes of utilisation it would only cause the very problems which sanitary reform was supposed to solve. The need to remove excreta ‘as speedily as possible’ was readily accepted by most experts at the time[18] and was used by the Sydney sewage and Health Board to discredit dry conservancy methods:

Such plans, moreover, all violate one of the most important of sanitary laws, which is that all refuse matters which are liable to become injurious to health should be removed instantly and be dealt with afterwards. With all these plans it is an obvious advantage on the score of economy to keep the refuse about the premises as long as possible.[19]

ARGUMENTS OVER EFFICACY

The relative merits of the various schemes being proposed were difficult to evaluate because they were all fairly new and therefore experimental. One Sydney engineer complained that almost all books and pamphlets on the subject were biased, producing ‘the most hopelessly confusing discrepancies in all values and quantities.’[20] The confusion was not only because of bias but also because there was no agreed upon criterion for such an evaluation. Evaluation policies develop as a field of technology matures. When there is no agreement about competing technologies, or even the primary objectives of such technologies, as was the case with water-carriage and dry conservancy technologies, then agreement about standards and criteria of efficacy cannot be reached and the relative worth of each technology cannot be decided on the basis of ‘efficacy’ alone.There were places in Australia and overseas that were using the earth-closet system to some degree but these examples were used by people on both sides of the debate to prove the success and the failure of such a scheme. It was claimed, for example, that earth closets had been used successfully in India,[21] New Jersey, Paris and Stockholm and also Balmain[22] and unsuccessfully in Balmain, Manly, Melbourne and Brisbane.[23]

Often the criticisms on both sides were based on the worst representative cases of each others schemes; dry-closets that were shared by too many people; night-soil collection that was not properly supervised or regulated; poorly constructed sewerage schemes. For example a Sydney engineer advocating water-carriage sewers, J.B. Henson, admitted that the results of many sewerage systems had been unsatisfactory but he argued, these were designed by people who did not understand sanitary principles. The Herald argued:

It is not fair to compare the principle of water carriage, when badly worked out with that of the earth-closet system, carried out under imaginary, and in our case unattainable conditions. [24]

The debate should also be considered in the context of crisis. The tendency not to implement new systems of technology in the public sector until a crisis makes it no longer possible to put off the inevitable reforms means that such decisions are made when there is little time or flexibility for pioneering uncertain alternatives.The relative economics of the various schemes was another hotly debated issue. The dry conservationists argued that their schemes were more economical because of the value of the manure which would be sold, the savings in water and the lesser treatment that the remaining sewage would require. The value of the manure was a particularly indeterminate matter, and there was little agreement either on its efficacy in improving farm yields or on the price that it would fetch. Moreover the price that it could be sold for at the time did not reflect the long-term value to the soil. In the relatively young colony of N.S.W. the land had not yet been overworked and deprived of many of its nutrients and fertilisers were not as much in demand then as later. The cost of artificial fertilisers to the farmers was not considered to be a cost that should be attributed to water-carriage systems. The cost of transporting the sewage or poudrette to the farmer, however, was included in the costs of dry conservancy methods and this was one of the key factors in depriving the manure of any value. [25]

On the other hand water-carriage proponents argued that because dry conservancy methods did not deal with the large quantities of liquid household wastes, sewer systems would still have to be built and therefore the cost of dry conservancy methods were always additional to the cost of a sewerage system. This argument was made at a time when it was supposed that a combined system of drainage and sewage pipes would suffice for a city.[26] Later it was found that separate systems were required and it is uncertain how this consideration may have influenced the argument.

The operating costs of sewers discharging raw sewage into waterways were definitely lower than those of pan and dry closet systems because of the labour involved in the latter, especially when the labour required to enrich the manure and transporting it to farm land were considered. Moreover, sewerage systems were paid for on a completely different basis from cesspit, pan and dry closet systems which were paid for individually. Sewerage systems were paid for by the municipality or city and the capital cost was spread over a number of years through bond issues and loans.

However, the pan system was used in Sydney suburbs for many years, some until quite recently, as a cheaper, ‘temporary’ alternative to sewers. The very substantial cost of sewerage schemes made it difficult to argue for them on the basis of cost savings. However, an extensive network of sewers had been built before these debates came to the fore and the authorities baulked at starting all over and especially since this would have meant admitting that earlier decisions had been wrong as well as necessitated the scrapping of infrastructure that had required a large capital investment.

Earlier decisions had in fact set in place the beginnings of a technological system which was set to expand and grow. Such a system, as described by Thomas Hughes in his work on electricity generation,[27] encompasses not only physical equipment but also organisations, professional allegiances, legislative artifacts and scientific components. Such a system develops a momentum that is a powerful conservative force ensuring that development takes place in certain directions that were consolidated early in the system’s formation. By the 1870s and 1880s the Sydney sewerage system had accumulated some organisational and financial momentum which made it difficult for dry conservationists to alter its direction.

Another, perhaps more pressing, reason for the triumph of sewers over closets and pans lies in the opportunities they offered in terms of planning and control.

ORDER, SOCIAL CONTROL & PROGRESS

The Sydney Sewage and Health Board argued that Dry Closets were unsuitable for large towns because it was practically impossible to secure proper management of the earth-closets and this was necessary to prevent the closet becoming ‘a filthy and dangerous nuisance’.[28] Other management problems included getting people to apply the dry earth or ashes in sufficient quantity and detail to their excrement. A text book used in Sydney argued that ‘decent people’ managed their dry closets so that they were clean and inoffensive but ‘the lower classes of people cannot be allowed to have anything whatever to do with their own sanitary arrangements: everything must be managed for them.’[29]The Herald claimed that the danger with earth closets arose from the ‘ignorance, the recklessness, or the neglect of the people’ which could only be fixed with generations of public education, not just public organisation and regulation.[30] Dry closet enthusiasts admitted that the earth system failed in some places because ‘of a want of ordinary skill or an absence of efficient supervision such as would cause any other scheme to fail.’[31]And indeed proper management was also a problem with water closets when they were first introduced:

The ordinary water-closet is obviously unsuited for careless and wantonly mischievous people. The pans get broken, the traps choked up, the water is left running on continually from the tap, or the tap is broken and leaks wastefully; in frosty weather there is no water, and the consequence is that the closets become filthy and stinking.[32]

These problems, which were so readily blamed on the carelessness of the poor, arose because poor families were forced to share both earth and water closets with several other families and because of a lack of education about their use. An 1885 British survey found that 90% of houses inspected had broken or unflushable water closets, and five years later it was found that of 3000 houses inspected only 1% did not have plumbing or draining defects.[33]Despite the problems with water closets, they were being installed by the affluent before water-carriage disposal systems were even available. As the most modern of conveniences they were regarded as a more desirable device. They were relatively simple and automatic to operate and they removed the offensive matter from sight and from inside the home immediately. Water-carriage systems offered more potential for control and were therefore more attractive to the authorities in Sydney and also in many other cities around the world. The visible signs of dirt and disease would be removed from the city streets once and for all and this was an important step in cleaning up and ordering the city environment.

Although the actual toilet might remain a private responsibility and therefore be subject to abuse, the automatic nature of the flush toilet removed the need for individual decision making about when and how to remove sewage from the home[34] and the collection, carriage and disposal was necessarily a centralised, government controlled activity. To achieve the same degree of control with dry closets, the Sydney Morning Herald argued, it would be necessary for delivery and collection to be by ‘a process of domiciliary visitation by men armed with authority to see that this portion of the domestic arrangements of every house was properly attended to. The people would live under the visitation and supervision of an army of scavengers.’[35]

Water-carriage systems, as advocated by sanitary reformers and government authorities, required an integrated system of underground pipes that were planned, engineered and coordinated with reference to a larger, city-wide plan.[36] Political boundaries could not fragment a sewerage scheme, rather local councils were forced to give authority to more centralised government bodies in the realm of waste disposal once water-carriage systems were adopted. Water-carriage, with its scale economies, capital intensiveness and need for central administration ‘was an important factor in facilitating governmental integration.’[37]

The widespread belief that progress ensued from technological change and modernisation, also linked water-carriage technology to urban progress. A writer for the Quarterley Review in England argued:

Tube-drainage is therefore cheaper than cesspool-drainage, for the same reason, and in the same degree, that steam-woven calico is cheaper than hand-made lace. The filth and the finery are both costly, because they both absorb human toil; the cleanliness and the calico are alike economical, because they are alike products of steam-power.[38]

Sewers, despite their ancient heritage were seen to be more scientific than dry conservancy systems which seemed in turn to be somewhat primitive. Florence Nightingale observed in an 1870 Indian Sanitary Report that:

The true key to sanitary progress in cities is, water supply and sewerage. No city can be purified sufficiently by mere hand-labour in fetching and carrying. As civilization has advanced, people have always enlisted natural forces or machinery to supplant hand-labour, as being much less costly and greatly more efficient.[39]

The progressive image of sewerage systems and their very real effect in cleaning up cities had a significant effect on the development of a city, especially where it was in competition with other cities for population and investment. The impact on health, although clear in other cities, was not so marked in Sydney until after 1880 if one considers the death rate (see figure 3). But it was generally recognised that connection to a sewerage system increased real estate values and it has been argued that businessmen in some places considered sewerage works and water supply as ‘business investments in the projection of a favourable urban image.’[40]

ENGINEERS AND PROFESSIONAL CONTROL

The image of water-carriage technology as scientific and progressive was fostered by engineers whose professional image was thereby enhanced. The debate over methods of sewage collection was not confined to engineers but was readily taken up by doctors and lawyers, military men, architects and non-professional members of the public.Water-carriage was almost universally endorsed by government officials, local councils and by the various professional groups in Sydney. The Royal Society of N.S.W. resuscitated its sanitary section in 1886 and in papers given by Trevor Jones, the City Engineer, J. Ashburton Thompson, M.D, Chief Medical Inspector, John Smail, M.Inst.C.E of the Government Sewerage Department and other doctors and engineers water-carriage sewerage systems were discussed with the assumption that they were the only solution to the problem.

The Sanitary Science and Hygiene Section of the Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science also received papers on matters concerning sewage disposal. These papers were usually given by medical men and engineers, including government engineers and university professors, who favoured the water- carriage sewerage system.

Obviously engineers did not have a monopoly of control over sanitary decisions at this stage and a person who was trained in almost any field could make their name as a sanitary expert merely by studying the issue carefully and writing about it. Engineers were however closely associated with large-scale public works, the construction of tunnels and the laying of pipes, and overseas engineers were carving out a profession for themselves in the area of sanitation. Sewers had for some time been considered to be an engineering domain.

The reform measures pushed by sanitary reformers in the nineteenth century were largely technological and the development of new technologies associated with water supply and the water-carriage of sewage offered the opportunity for a new professional group to form which claimed to have specialised knowledge in the field. Attempts were made to exclude non-engineers from the field and establish sanitary engineering as a profession distinct from other professions and associated trades. The base for sanitary engineering was civil engineering to which a knowledge of physical and natural sciences was added.[41]

At the same time medical professionals in the public health area were carving out their own area of expertise. With the changing ideas about disease causation at the end of the nineteenth century physicians tried to exclude those outside the medical profession from the field of public health and to change the emphasis from collective community susceptibility to disease to personal and individual cure of disease with attention being given to specific agents of disease.[42] Engineers, on the other hand, retained the idea of the importance of environmental sanitation to health whilst it lent importance to their work.

Environmental sanitation fitted well with the engineering perspective which attempted to impose order on the natural environment, find technological fixes for social problems [43]and tended to view the urban environment in terms of a series of problems to be solved. The engineering priority of finding the least cost solutions, and not being swayed from that by other lesser considerations, also caused them to support the no-nonsense water-carriage system over other systems that attached some non monetary value to manure. An engineering text put it quite simply ‘The all-convincing argument with any but the sentimentalist is that, while there may be manurial value in sewage, no commercially profitable method of utilizing it has been found.’[44]

The problems associated with poorly conceived and constructed sewer systems, especially the problems of seepage and sewer gas, were used by engineers to argue for more expertise to be employed with regard to sewerage systems. Water and sewerage systems, as lifelines for the city, were so important, they argued, that only professional experts should be trusted to build and administer truly comprehensive schemes of sewerage.[45]

Because water-carriage technology needed to be implemented systematically to ensure effective functioning rather than in the piecemeal or ad-hoc way that dry conservancy methods allowed, it was particularly compatible with engineering ideals since it required planning, engineering expertise and centralised management. Water-carriage systems entailed large-scale public works and large capital outlays and the engineers’ association with public works, as well as their ability to minimise costs and to prioritise economic considerations, was an asset under the circumstances. Engineer-dominated permanent bureaucracies were needed to undertake the planning, construction and maintenance of water and sewerage systems. Such bureaucracies promised greater efficiency and provided the model for other types of public works.[46]

Whilst many books written by acknowledged sanitary experts in the nineteenth century devoted much space to the debate between dry conservancy methods and water-carriage systems, the texts written by engineers and for engineers were notably lacking in attention given to the debate. Such well-used texts as Latham’s massive volume on Sanitary Engineering barely mention the alternatives to sewers except to dismiss them in a line or two.[47] An important exception is perhaps Colonel Waring who although a member of various engineering associations was originally trained as an agricultural scientist and probably placed a higher priority on utilisation of manure than most engineers.[48]

Government authorities were also dismissive of dry conservancy methods. An 1887 report was typical saying that ‘At the best, the so-called dry systems are but inferior substitutes for water-carriage, which, if efficiently constructed throughout, is the cleanest and most convenient of all.’[49]

CONCLUSION – ANALYSIS OF A CONTROVERSY

The fight between advocates of water-carriage technology and supporters of dry conservancy technologies was an uneven one from the start. The government and the engineers who advised them generally favoured water-carriage systems because they could be controlled more easily and necessitated a centralised government bureaucracy staffed by experts. Sewers were automatic and took responsibility away from individual householders and landlords and private carters, whom, it was felt could not be trusted. Dry closets especially, depended on proper management in the home as well as regular collection and responsible disposal. Sewers removed the cause of trouble quickly and quietly from under peoples’ noses.And whilst the government could achieve sanitary reform aims, engineers saw the opportunity to establish themselves as experts in a new field of sanitary engineering and to increase their role in city management. Very few engineers participated in the newspaper debate; since this was a matter for experts, public opinion was not of much significance. Advocates of the alternative schemes, though often professional people, doctors and lawyers usually, were nonetheless outsiders since the liaison between engineers and city councils was forged early when the first sewerage systems had been built in the face of almost no opposition.

Opposition to water-carriage technology was basically value based. Opponents’ central concerns were to do with pollution and conservation of resources, but these concerns were not really addressed. Debate was often focussed on technical issues of economics and efficacy. These issues could not be resolved because there were no standard criteria or test of what it meant for a system to be ‘working’ or effective.

People were encouraged to perceive water-closets as being clean and sewers as being the mark of progress and civilisation. The question of what to do with the sewage once it had reached its destination and the problem of subsequent pollution at the point of discharge were considered by the authorities and the engineers to be a separate and less important question and were not allowed to confuse the issue of how best to collect and remove the sewage. These problems were dealt with as they arose but the dependence of water-carriage technology on waterways for disposal has left a legacy of water pollution problems.

It is perhaps ironic that, although water-carriage technology won the day and became almost universally considered to be the superior solution to sewage removal, sewerage systems were often slow to be implemented because of their high costs and various dry conservancy methods and individualised household treatment systems (septic tanks etc.) were introduced, and have been maintained in Sydney, even until the present day. Whilst research and development has been aimed at improving sewerage systems and centralised sewage treatment, until recently, little work has been done on improving household collection and treatment systems because of their supposed temporary nature. The latest developments in decentralised sewage treatment units are not well known and just as dry conservancy methods suffered from the association with cesspits in the nineteenth century, modern on-site treatment units today suffer from the association with the very rudimentary technologies such as septic tanks that are still around from the nineteenth century.


Endnotes[1] Reginald Reynolds, Cleanliness and Godliness, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1943, pp13-20.

[2] Report of the No 7 Committee Appointed by the Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board, 1875.

[3] NSW Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, 1876-7, p685.

[4] ibid.

[5] Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board, Sixth Progress Report, 1875, p8.

[6] Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board, Twelfth and Final Report, 1877.

[7] Gustave Fischer, `Water-Carriage System of Sewerage, Its Disadvantages, as applied to the Drainage of Cities and Towns’, paper read before the Engineering Association of New South Wales, Sept 11, 1884, p2.

[8] E.W.Cracknell, `Sanitary Improvements’, Proceedings of the Engineering Association of NSW IV, 1888-9, p94.

[9] ibid., p95.

[10] Sydney Morning Herald, 29th March 1851.

[11] First Yearly Report of the Commissioners, p28.

[12] ibid., p13-21.

[13] Sydney Morning Herald, 9th March 1880.

[14] Anthony S. Wohl, Endangered Lives: Public Health in Victorian Britain, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1983, p102.

[15] Sydney Morning Herald, 15th May 1880.

[16] Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board, Progress Report, 1875, p1.

[17] Sydney Morning Herald, 15th May 1880.

[18] for example, Joseph Bancroft, ‘Various Hygienic Aspects of Australian Life’, Australasian Association for the Advancement of Science I, 1887, pp532-3; George Gordon, ‘Household Sanitation’, Australasian Association for the Advancement of ScienceII, 1890, p688; J.Trevor Jones, ‘Sanitation of the Suburbs of Sydney’, Royal Society of NSW 20, 1886, pp362-3; J. Ashburton Thompson, ‘Sewerage of Country Towns: The Separate System’, Royal Society of NSW 26, 1892, p133.

[19] Sewage and Health Board, Third Progress Report, p6.

[20] Sewage and Health Board, Third Progress Report, p6.

[21] Burke, Sewage Utilization, pp14-21.

[22] Sydney Morning Herald, 16th March 1880, 19th March 1880, 24th March, 1880.

[23] Sydney Morning Herald, 13th March 1880, 9th April 1880

[24] Sydney Morning Herald, 13th March 1880.

[25] for a U.S. analysis of sewage as fertiliser see Joel Tarr, ‘From City to Farm: Urban Wastes and the American Farmer’, Agricultural History XLIX(4), Oct 1975, 598-612.

[26] for an analysis of decision-making between separate and combined systems of sewerage see Joel Tarr, ‘The Separate vs. Combined Sewer Problem: A Case Study in Urban Technology Design Choice’, Journal of Urban History 5(3), May 1979: 308-339.

[27] Thomas Hughes, Networks of Power: Electrification in Western Society, 1880-1930, John Hopkins University Press, 1983.

[28] The Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board, Third Progress Report, 1875., p3.

[29] W.H.Corfield, A Digest of Facts Relating to The Treatment and Utilization of Sewage, MacMillan & Co., 1871, pp31-2.

[30] Sydney Morning Herald, 13th March 1880.

[31] Sydney Morning Herald, 19th March 1880.

[32] Corfield, The Treatment and Utilization of Sewage, p118.

[33] Wohl, Endangered Lives, p102.

[34] Joel Tarr et al, ‘Water and Wastes: A Retrospective Assessment of WastewaterTechnology in the United States, 1800-1932’, Technology and Culture 25(2), April 1984, p234.

[35] Sydney Morning Herald, 26th March 1880.

[36] ibid., p84.

[37] Tarr et al,’Water and Wastes’, p252.

[38] F.O.Ward, ‘Sanitary Consolidation-Centralisation-Local Self-Government’, Quarterly Review 88, 1850, p479.

[39] quoted in The Sydney City and Suburban Sewage and Health Board, Third Progress Report, 1875, p6.

[40] Joel Arthur Tarr and Francis Clay McMichael, ‘The Evolution of Wastewater Technology and the Development of State Regulation: A Retrospective Analysis’ in Joel A.Tarr, ed, Retrospective Technology Assessment-1976, San Francisco Press, 1977, p176.

[41] Tarr et al, ‘Water and Wastes’; Martin Melosi, Garbage in the Cities: Refuse, Reform and the Environment 1880-1980, Texas A.&M. University Press, 1981, p120.

[42] Barbara Gutmann Rosenkrantz, ‘Cart before Horse: Theory, Practice and Professional Image in American Public Health, 1870-1920’, Journal of the History of Medicine, January 1974, pp63-64.

[43] Melosi, Garbage in the Cities, p22.

[44] A. Prescott Folwell, Sewerage. The Designing, Construction, and Maintenance of Sewerage Systems, John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1901, p8.

[45] Stanley Schultz & Clay McShane, ‘Pollution and Political Reform in Urban America: The Role of Municipal Engineers, 1840-1920’ in Martin Melosi (ed.), Pollution and Reform in American Cities 1870-1930, University of Texas Press, 1980, pp162-3.

[46] ibid., p165.

[47] Baldwin Latham, Sanitary Engineering: A Guide to the Construction of Works of Sewerage and House Drainage, 2nd edition, E & F.N.Spon, 1878.

[48] Geo. E. Waring, Jr, Modern Methods of Sewage Disposal, D.Van Nostrand, New York, 1894.

[49] George Stayton, Sewerage and Drainage of the Western Suburbs, Department of Public Works, 1887, p7.


Professor Sharon Beder is a visiting professorial fellow at the University of Wollongong.
Sharon Beder’s Publications can be found at http://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb

 

 

SOURCE:  https://www.uow.edu.au/~sharonb/sewage/history.html

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SEWAGE OVERFLOWS AROUND CARINGBAH HOMES … FIVE TIMES IN A YEAR 

FROM The SHIRE today … report of sewage overflows in Caringbah … five in less than 12 months!

Sydney is growing so too the Shire with townhouses & villas but the pipes can’t …

Sydney’s first pipes were built in the 1850s …

THIS is a job that Gladys must get done!  Or be done …

… we don’t wanna go back to dry closets or pans

 

Sewage overflows around Caringbah homes five times in a year

Raw sewage running over your lawn, down the driveway and under your house… It’s unthinkable.

 

But, that’s what has happened five times in the last year, including twice in the last few days, to residents in four adjoining houses in Carabella Road, Caringbah.

The sewage overflows occur in very heavy rain and, when the water subsides, yards and driveways are left covered with toilet paper and other disgusting items.

 

One of the residents is a woman, 88.

 

“Her home becomes surrounded by a moat of effluent”, said neighbour Dale Badger, who is also affected.

 

“The overflows are from sewage breather pipes that run between the houses.

“It’s happened five times since February 11, 2018, including Sunday and Tuesday this week.

 

“Each time we call Sydney Water, but they have been unable to fix the problem and don’t have an answer as to why it is happening.”

 

Betty Gregory, another affected resident, said the situation was “unbearable”.

Ms Gregory raised her concerns with Labor candidate for Cronulla Teressa Farhart, who said it “it is unacceptable for raw sewerage to be running into the local streets”.

 

Ms Gregory said, “We have been living in Carabella Street for 45 years without a problem before this started happening”.

 

“You cannot imagine what kinds of things are floating down our driveway and under our house – condoms, baby wipes, poo, all in a huge stream of sewerage water.

 

*”We put this down to the overdevelopment in the shire and the fact that infrastructure has not been updated to cope with the extra sewer.”

 

Ms Gregory said the situation worsened on Tuesday night.

“More neighbours are affected,” she said on Wednesday.

 

“[Sydney Water] did a bit of a clean up yesterday but did not fix the problem. It is in fact worse.

 

“Tonnes of raw sewerage going down our driveway and under the house.

“Do we have to accept this gross contamination of our home space?”

 

Sydney Water has been asked for a response.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.theleader.com.au/story/5963376/residents-angry-as-raw-sewage-flows-across-yards-in-big-wet/?cs=1507&fbclid=IwAR3f07RZ871lB5h9DPqCfVj4OdgjUNxn_pbYOv6kZqniHYj2gh08w_-W9vI

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WILCANNIA: THE TOWN WITH NO WATER

 

 

NEWS

Since the Darling River ran dry six months ago, Wilcannia’s residents have been left to truck in drinking water. Politicians blame the drought, but locals cite mismanagement and corruption. By Nick Feik.

 

Wilcannia: The town with no water

 

Locals walk in protest in Wilcannia, New South Wales, on March 3.

CREDIT: NSW ABORIGINAL LAND COUNCIL

 

The river stopped flowing through Wilcannia, in north-western New South Wales, in September last year. It’s now just a series of dank green ponds. Signs by the bridge over the Lower Darling warn of harmful algae that “may cause serious harm to humans and animals”. The animals have no choice, though, and the kangaroos are still drinking it, despite the smell.

Wilcannia’s 700 residents, the majority of them Indigenous, only drink water that arrives in boxes on the back of trucks from the desert-dry Broken Hill, 200 kilometres away, or from even further afield.

The town’s community radio station, Wilcannia River Radio, has started collecting and distributing donated water, although it’s nowhere near enough to satisfy demand.

A mother of five said her 10-litre carton was gone within a day. It would likely be another week before she was allocated the next free one. In the meantime, she was buying boxed water.

Some households are spending up to $60 a week on water. Almost everyone in Wilcannia, from the local pharmacist to the healthcare centre receptionist to the shire workers, buys water rather than risk drinking what comes out of the taps. A mother who cannot always afford to buy cartons says she boils the high-salinity tap water and adds cordial so her kids will drink it.

 

The Central Darling Shire recently switched Wilcannia over to bore supply and says the heavily treated water it pumps to homes is in line with national drinking water guidelines. But there is an understandable mistrust of the town water among locals. An undated sign in the public toilets beside Wilcannia Hospital instructs, on shire letterhead, “Do not drink this water”. It cites the contamination of Wilcannia’s water supply and says it is not fit for human consumption until further notice. Scrawled on the drinking fountain in the main street is a warning: “Drink this water, you are going to die”.

Without water in the river, though, the town is dying anyway. It’s the sixth year in a row that the Darling River hasn’t had a regular flow here, a run of dry years never known in the river’s history. “Give us a chance,” says Barkandji senior elder Kerry “Sissy” King, addressing the politicians she holds responsible. “Come out here and see how you feel about living [with no water]. They’ve taken it from the nation that lives off the river system. Come and sit in the gutter with us.”

State and federal politicians blame the drought. But the drought only started two years ago, not six. For Wilcannia residents this is a man-made disaster, and the lack of water coming down the Darling is a direct result of mismanagement and over-allocation upstream.

“The system is totally broken,” says local grazier Arthur Davies. “Without the Darling, this country out here is finished. Doomed.”

The crisis has united graziers and Indigenous communities in the region, and they agree on how things can be fixed.

The final report of Bret Walker’s Murray–Darling Basin Royal Commission, established by the South Australian government, found that the Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) had acted unlawfully, and proposed a complete overhaul of the system. It found water allocations were driven by politics and a culture of secrecy: a “desire to keep its work and decision-making processes away from proper scrutiny”.

Or, as Brendon Adams of Wilcannia River Radio, put it: “Lies. It’s all lies.”

 

No rain is forecast for Wilcannia and its surrounds. Even if it rained heavily in the right catchments tomorrow, the water would take three months to make its way down here. The last remaining water in Wilcannia’s weir, really just a dirty pond in the riverbed, will run out in the next two months – at which point the water treatment plant and bore system will be under even more strain, to flush toilets, fill evaporative coolers, keep plants alive, feed animals.

It’s not clear, either, if bore supplies will hold out. There’s no way to tell how much groundwater is accessible and the local boring contractor is busy. It’s likely there will be increasing volumes drawn from below the surface. He is already contracted to sink more than 30 bores in the vicinity of Wilcannia, mainly for the use of local graziers and shire roadworks.

The Darling is Australia’s third longest river, reaching from its intersection with the Murray up to Queensland. Yet it hardly deserves this grand title – from Menindee to Bourke, roughly 800 kilometres, there is no flow at all. Walgett and Brewarrina, on the Barwon, a Darling tributary above Bourke, are also bone dry.

The recent fish kills at Menindee brought national attention to the state of the Lower Darling, yet the situation in nearby Wilcannia is arguably worse. As grazier Arthur Davies notes, “the fish aren’t a problem around here”. They’re long gone.

Today it’s beyond wildest imagination but Wilcannia was once a port town – Australia’s third biggest inland port. In tourism information posted by the Wilcannia bridge, photographs of rowboats and paddle steamers bumping into each other beside the same bridge mock the present moment.

Aboriginal communities have been living along the Barka – as it is known by the Barkandji – for at least 40,000 years. After a period of intense frontier wars, the Barkandji (“people of the river”) were displaced and moved into towns and surrounding stations, then onto reservations.

These early decades of colonialism also brought the first acts of environmental vandalism. To ease the way for riverboat traffic, rock bars that had existed for millennia – which also served as weirs to regulate water levels through times of both flood and drought – were blasted out, along with ancient fish traps and the Barkandji sacred site where the rainbow serpent lives.

In the mid-1990s, a national market for water was established. The implications for Indigenous people were profound. Having not owned land or farms they were excluded from any entitlements to tradeable water rights, and the consequent wealth-generating process.

By this time, experts were already warning of over-allocation throughout the basin, and caps were imposed on water extraction for the first time. The Millennium Drought, from 2001 to 2009, in its extremity, prompted the 2007 Water Act. Widely admired, the act centred around a commitment to protecting the basin using the best available science – one that placed the environment above political or commercial interests.

The Murray–Darling Basin Plan was intended to deliver on the principles of the Water Act. Instead its new “water-sharing” arrangements became a free-for-all. Wilcannia and other local populations were essentially unrepresented in basin plan negotiations, as the Barkandji native title claim was yet to be recognised.

Meanwhile, lobbyists courted politicians from across the spectrum for new and larger allocations and sought to minimise environmental ones.

In the north, the cotton-growing corporations were wildly successful and used their generous allocations to expand farms, buy larger pumps, and increase off-river water storages. The likes of Webster Farms and Darling Farms and the foreign owners of Cubbie Station established operations that were never going to be environmentally sustainable. They forged on anyway.

Cut to 2019, and too much water has been taken for irrigation upstream, not enough  left to flow down the Darling River. It’s been a collective act of bastardry, if not outright corruption. An environmental catastrophe.

 

Every pernicious effect of colonialism has combined in Wilcannia. First, it was the seizure of the land, then the banning of culture and destruction of environment, the lack of representation, and now, finally, the water. “We’re already lost,” says Sissy King. “How much more lost can we be?”

It’s hard to dispute the words of anthropologist Patrick Wolfe, that colonialism is a structure, not an event.

The cost of living in Wilcannia today – both practical and metaphorical – is exacerbated by the water crisis, only adding to its dysfunction. The local economy is in a state of collapse and unemployment is high. Most shops are shuttered, even the ones that are open. Fresh fruit and vegetables are rare and expensive in the single small supermarket, and basics such as pasta cost two to three times normal prices.

Social housing is dangerously overcrowded – an issue that requires an investigation of its own – and crime rates, particularly domestic violence, are high. Health risks are rife, as are substance and alcohol abuse. Life expectancy is devastatingly low – at last count, 37 years for an Aboriginal male. And there is little to do: this year the locals won’t even be able to cheer on their rugby teams at home games as the ground is too dry to play on and there’ll be no water to spare.

None of these problems will be solved by the local council – because there is none. It was dismissed and went into administration in 2014, after the shire was declared bankrupt. The town’s current administrators, who are toiling just to keep the lights on, were appointed by the state government. New elections aren’t expected until September 2020. Until then, residents are without local representation.

Yet in this tight-knit community people are working hard to survive, and believe the longstanding problems are not insurmountable. “We want to have a good feeling in our hearts, not one of being denied,” says Barkandji elder “Pop” Cyril Hunter. “We want to feel like people care.”

 

The 2012 Murray Darling Basin Plan had a budget of $13 billion over 12 years. This money was to fund the return of the necessary water, as legislated, to keep the system in environmental balance – mainly through the purchasing of allocations from willing farmers and irrigators. As of 2019, more than $8 billion has been spent on the water buybacks and subsidies for infrastructure investment. Again, mainly for the benefit of irrigators, and in the name of “water efficiency”.

The net result, according to the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists, an independent body, is that “environmental flow targets set by the Murray–Darling Basin Authority, which are required to be met to produce environmental improvements, have failed to be achieved”. Its February 2019 report found, furthermore, that “instead of an increase there has actually been no improvement or even a decline in water flows since the implementation of the Basin Plan”.

These observations match those of Wilcannia residents and regional graziers. They say the Darling hasn’t flowed regularly since the effects of the basin plan hit the river system. Wilcannia locals have seen droughts before, but every adult in town knows the river kept flowing through previous spells.

An Australian Academy of Science report on the Menindee fish kills found “there is not enough water in the Darling system to avoid catastrophic decline of condition through dry periods”.  Based on observed data from gauges at Brewarrina, Bourke and Wilcannia since 1960, the report found that diversions have reduced annual flow volumes in the Darling River by about half.

Federal water minister David Littleproud responded to the report by first calling it political rather than scientific, before trotting out the now-common defence of the cotton and irrigation industries: blame the drought. He then drew attention to the small amounts of water these groups had drawn out of the system in the past year compared to previous years, relative to total volumes in the system.

Irrigators are able to draw out allowances in whichever year they choose, in years when the water price is low for example, then store the water behind their ever-larger weirs and in private dams. They have been given access to high, medium and low flows.

Even as Littleproud issued his statement, irrigators in the northern basin were running sprinkler systems across thousands of acres of cotton.

No one in Wilcannia believes the drought is primarily responsible for their situation. “The river used to run through droughts – now it doesn’t,” said Cyril Hunter. “The government made this drought,” said Brendon Adams, motioning towards the dry river bed. Many in Wilcannia also pointed to the age of the fish killed at Menindee as proof they survived the Millennium Drought. Some were up to 70 years old.

 

Coming to grips with the Murray–Darling system is disorienting. The language of water management is not designed to be straightforward: extractions, buybacks and return flows, sustainable and baseline diversion limits, classes of pumps and water licences, gigalitres, megalitres, billions of litres. And that’s before we even get to the overlapping responsibilities of the different governments, various acts, water-sharing plans and management authorities.

As Professor Sue Jackson, a geographer and water expert at Griffith University, explains it: “Water flows to power.”

The MDBA maintains that its efforts in the past six years have led to the recovery of more than 2100 gigalitres for the system. But the actual water is nowhere to be seen, in the northern basin rivers at least. Compliance measures have been notoriously lax, methods of gauging water returns basically untested, water theft common. Perhaps strangest of all, by the MDBA’s own admission up to 50 per cent of surface water extractions in the northern basin are unmetered. It has been described as an honesty box system, which is reliant upon corporations that are trying to make money.

Each year, the MDBA and state water agencies produce reports that run to thousands of pages, but they lack information in key areas. To read through them is to face the question of whether their function is not to manage the fair sharing of water but to provide cover for the outrage that is occurring.

State governments, meanwhile, are still running water-sharing regimes based on the interim arrangements put together in 2012-13. Due to regulatory and bureaucratic intransigence, the states’ updated water-resource plans aren’t due to be implemented until July this year at the earliest. Even so, the NSW government is running behind in its preparations. This means that NSW is still allocating water according to arrangements that take no account of either the subsequent draining of parts of the river system, its changed environmental state or the emergency needs of communities along the river. Nor do they take into account the successful 2015 native title claim of the Barkandji, covering 400 kilometres of the Lower Darling including water rights, which remain entirely theoretical.

The only significant reassessment of the original basin plan was initiated in 2016 under then water minister Barnaby Joyce. To the horror of scientists and environmentalists, the northern basin review found that even less water would be returned to the Darling. The recovery target for the northern basin was reduced from 450 gigalitres to 320 gigalitres a year in an amendment to the Water Act. The government would spend even more on “efficiency measures”, including more funds for irrigators. They are completely untested and, in many cases, speculative. A senate committee stated at the time that the MDBA had determined “the same environmental benefits could be achieved without having to use as much water”.

Joyce had a more straight-talking explanation of the changes he oversaw. As reported by the ABC, he told a gathering in Shepparton, in northern Victoria, that he had given water back to agriculture through the plan so the “greenies were not running the show”.

“We have taken water, put it back into agriculture, so we could look after you,” he told irrigators.

The river’s native title owners and other Aboriginal communities were invited to respond to the review, but it was consultation in name only. The MDBA subsequently reported, “an overwhelming number of submissions from Aboriginal people stated that the changes proposed to the Basin Plan are not supported by Aboriginal people”. Nevertheless, their views were overridden. A benefit package was developed to get the amendment through – a series of compensatory measures sometimes referred to locally in Wilcannia as “shut-up money”.

Obviously not all, or even most, farmers in the northern basin are thriving, but the deck remains stacked in their favour. While big irrigators are paid millions in water buybacks, and subsidised to upgrade their pipes, weirs and farming methods, Wilcannia residents are buying their own water because their river is dry. As Sissy King puts it, “Why should they be given money for what they stole from us?”

 

For the Barkandji, the river is more than a physical body of water or economic lifeline. As Cyril Hunter explains, “Water is our life, our culture. It’s our bloodline, that old river.” Sitting on a verandah by the river, he tells of the relationship between Barkandji people and the sacred aspects in the river; how the world is explained using the stories of the river; how traditional hunting of animals and fish, and the custodianship of the plants and trees, is based on a river that flows.

Culture isn’t something that can be drawn from an emergency bore via a chemical treatment facility.

Wilcannia means “a gap in the bank where the flood waters escape”. Hunter hasn’t seen it flood in years and, pointing to some kids playing nearby, notes that they’ve never seen it flow properly. He tells of how, when he was a child, his elders taught him to hunt and fish, what plants and fruits to collect and when, as well as the associated stories. The local ecology is now so disrupted that it has become impossible to pass on that knowledge.

The consensus in Wilcannia is that a solution to the Darling water problem is still possible. Rainfall averages across the basin have barely moved in the past century, so while increasing temperatures are a factor, fixing the immediate crisis doesn’t rest on hand-wringing about the drought. It means reducing entitlements for irrigation, increasing flows for rivers and wetlands and prioritising the needs of river communities who depend on it for basic sustenance. Crucially, it means overhauling how the system is managed, starting with the governance of the basin.

Otherwise we can kiss the Lower Darling goodbye, along with the communities living along it.

Standing in the riverbed in Wilcannia, all the government’s claims about “environmental flows” and “sustainable diversion limits” seem like a sick joke. There is no water here.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Mar 9, 2019 as “The town with no water”. Subscribe here.

Nick Feik 
is the editor of the Monthly.

CONTAMINATION CONCERNS ABOUT QUARRY PLANS FOR THE BLUE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK, LITHGOW & HAWKESBURY

ANOTHER Consequence of Overdevelopment in Sydney … the Waste!

Creating pollution issues for residents en route and contaminated fill … a major issue …. asbestos contamination!

VIEW details below for writing your objection!

 

Concerns about quarry plans

Concerned residents had a meeting at Monkey Creek cafe in January.

Concerned residents had a meeting at Monkey Creek cafe in January.

 

Residents who want to comment on a proposal to move thousands of waste-carrying trucks over the Mountains to an old quarry past Bell have until March 20 to make a submission.

 

The plan to rehabilitate the old quarry would see approximately 1.2 million cubic metres of fill trucked from Sydney along the Great Western Highway or via Bells Line of Road to Bell, when it would be moved along Sandham Road to Newnes Junction.

There was a community meeting about the quarry DA a week ago  at Clarence RFS Shed attended by around 60 locals including members of the local RFS brigades.

 

Councillors from all three affected councils attended: Blue Mountains Cr Kerry Brown, Lithgow Crs Mayor Ray Thompson, Deputy Mayor Wayne McAndrew and Cr Steve Ring and Hawkesbury Cr John Ros.

 

Greens candidate for Blue Mountains Kingsley Liu and Labor candidate for Bathurst Beau Rile also attended, as did Blue Mountains Conservation Society vice-president Don Morrison.

 

Bell resident and retired truck driver owner Kaye Whitbread said that the DA would allow a truck to pass along Sandham Road nine metres from her bedroom window every nine minutes all day from 7am to 6pm.

 

“The noise and dust will be unbearable. Most of the road is unsealed. The dust will cover everything and we only have tank water out here to wash with. I won’t even be able to sell my property.”

 

All five councillors spoke against the DA and urged  everyone to make a submission.

 

Councillor Steven Ring who moved the unanimous motion for Lithgow Council to oppose the DA last week said that the council had been “pushing back waste from Sydney for 40 years. This is not a precedent we want to set. Once it starts they will be trucking out waste to fill every old mine in Lithgow.”

 

Mayor Ray Thompson said that bushfire concerns were also a major factor. “We know we are going to have another fire. We will need that water in the quarry again.”

 

Cr Brown said that contaminated fill was a major issue.

 

“Last month a random blitz by the Environmental Protection Agency revealed widespread overloading and illegal disposal of waste by the trucking industry. In my experience as a gardener and councillor, contaminated fill is always finding its way into sites illegally.

 

“A few weeks ago our council discovered 300 tonnes of fill recently trucked into Springwood Golf Course had asbestos contamination.”

 

Hawkesbury Cr John Ros said that he and Cr Danielle Wheeler would propose Hawkesbury Council also make a submission opposing the DA.

Cr Ros said: “We do not want any risks to the water quality for our farmers. There is also the impact of traffic, noise and safety from more heavy trucks on the Bells Line of Road.”

 

Submissions should be made to Lithgow Council (council@lithgow.nsw.gov.au), which is considering the DA because Newnes is in its local government area. But because the proposal is defined as a regional development, it will ultimately be determined by a Joint Regional Planning Panel, not council.  

AND …

 

FROM THE HAWKESBURY COURIER:  HIGH RISK OF CONTAMINATION TO THE BLUE MOUNTAINS NATIONAL PARK:  LETTER OF OBJECTION

View bottom righthand corner for details on where to send your letter of objection:

 

 

 

 

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LANDFILL OPERATOR HAS APPLIED FOR A NEW DA: UNACCEPTABLE RISK TO CENTRAL COAST DRINKING WATER

Mountain Districts Association calls for a community-wide response to write submissions concerning Mangrove Mountain Landfill which threatens the groundwater aquifer and the Central Coast’s drinking water.

It is not only an unacceptable risk to the Central Coast water supply but possibly also the Hunter Region’s water supplies!

 

Landfill operator has applied for a new development application

A recent aerial view of the landfill site at Mangrove Mountain Photo: Drone Productions Australia

 

 

Mangrove Mountain residents are furious over a new DA for Mangrove Mountain Landfill, which was lodged by Verde Terra with Central Coast Council just days before Christmas, 2018.

Mountain Districts Association (MDA) spokesperson, Dr Stephen Goodwin, said the new DA for the controversial landfill site, which is now on public exhibition, would be vigorously opposed by the community.

“It appears to us that the wording of the DA fails to acknowledge its undeniable responsibility as a Designated Development, and in using language like ‘only minor changes are proposed to certain aspects’, it tries to downplay the nature of the development in an environmentally sensitive area,” Goodwin said.

MDA is urging all community members concerned about the future of their drinking water, and of our rural groundwater, to make a submission to Central Coast Council opposing the DA.

“This is a critical moment.

If Verde Terra is unsuccessful with its DA, then it won’t have a valid development consent necessary to support its application for the renewal of its environment protection licence.

“That would place the operators of this landfill in a difficult position.

After years of community pressure and ignoring advice from Central Coast Council that the existing development consent did not cover the present and proposed scale of landfilling operations, and that a modification of the development consent would be required before the landfill operation could resume, Verde Terra has finally bitten the bullet.

“Council has advised Verde Terra that in its opinion, the proposal is a Designated Development under the Environment Planning & Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act).

“Consequently, Council has requested an environmental impact statement (EIS) from the applicant.

“MDA agrees with Council in its classification of the proposal as Designated Development, because it involves a waste management facility that is located within a drinking water catchment as defined in Schedule 3 of Designated Development in the EP&A Act.”

Goodwin said if Verde Terra chose to ignore the request for an EIS, the matter will almost certainly end up in the Land and Environment Court (LEC).

Verde Terra is already in the LEC in a dispute with the EPA and Central Coast Council over the environment protection licence for Mangrove Mountain Landfill, and this new matter could mean that there may be two proceedings concerning Mangrove Mountain Landfill in the LEC in coming months,” he said.

“Central Coast Council applied to the LEC to join the first case as a party, on the grounds that the proposed expansion could represent an unacceptable risk to the Central Coast’s and possibly also the Hunter Region’s water supplies, and this was granted.

“The Mountain Districts community supports Central Coast Council’s involvement in the LEC proceeding.

“This landfill threatens our groundwater aquifer and the Central Coast’s drinking water.

“MDA also supports Council’s requirement for a new EIS.”

The deadline for submissions to Central Coast Council is close of business on March 14.

Attempts to contact Verde Terra for comment were unsuccessful.

Source:
Media release, Feb 25
Stephen Goodwin, Mountains District Association

 

 

SOURCE:  http://www.centralcoastnews.net/2019/03/01/landfill-operator-has-applied-for-a-new-development-application/

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ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION IS NO SIMPLE MATTER

SINCE 2011 … It appears  ….

“Complex legal terminology and ignorance by the mainstream media is making environmental protection increasingly difficult, writes Sue Arnold.

THE ABILITY OF Australian conservation organisations, community groups and the legal profession to prevent environmental crises are rapidly disappearing in a swamp of jargon and changes which will irrevocably reverse environmental protection.”

Environmental protection is no simple matter

By Sue Arnold |  |   comments
The “vulnerable” status of koalas cannot be upgraded due to the Common Assessment Method (Screenshot via YouTube)

 

Complex legal terminology and ignorance by the mainstream media is making environmental protection increasingly difficult, writes Sue Arnold.

THE ABILITY OF Australian conservation organisations, community groups and the legal profession to prevent environmental crises are rapidly disappearing in a swamp of jargon and changes which will irrevocably reverse environmental protection.

As Adam Schiff, Chairman of the U.S. House Intelligence Committee, noted in a recent interview with Bill Maher:

“You know, every day, bit by bit, drop by drop, we see our democracy evaporate.”

It’s pretty clear the same thing is happening in Australia as the mainstream Murdoch-dominated media continues its dedicated censorship of this critical erosion.

Stripping democratic rights is always heavily disguised in complex language and the decisions which provide legitimacy are beyond everyday understanding.

By far the most serious, in terms of wildlife protection, is the Memorandum of Understanding which set up the Common Assessment Method (CAM) signed off by Greg Hunt in 2015 when he was Environment Minister. The MoU was signed by all states.

EarthMatter@EarthDefendah

Faunal Extinction Crisis inquiry hears arguments for changes to environmental protection laws  The Advocate The Senate Inquiry into Australia’s Faunal Extinction Crisis began Monday with the panel hearing arguments for… http://fxmb.info/Qy7RKt via http://earthcentral.org

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The CAM allows for one national listing of species, in total contradiction of sane ecological protection, science, common sense, regional differences and the importance of protecting small populations of rapidly disappearing and uniquely Australian wildlife.

CAM was used in NSW to deny the upgrading of Port Stephens koalas to endangered. Prior to the repeal of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, the NSW Scientific Committee made a preliminary determination to upgrade the colony. When the Baird/Berejiklian Government brought in the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, which seriously weakened environmental protection in NSW, a new NSW Scientific Threatened Species Committee was set up. This Committee reviewed the Port Stephens koala preliminary judgement and on the grounds of the CAM, denied an upgrade.

An extraordinary decision, given that after the original preliminary determination, three major bushfires had wiped out critical habitat, killing an unknown number of koalas. Development projects have increased and although the second assessment demonstrated a much worse situation facing the koalas, the CAM was the only instrument relevant to the decision.

Koalas are listed under the Environment Protection & Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC) as “vulnerable” in NSW, Queensland and the A.C.T. The “vulnerable” listing now remains the legal status of koalas throughout Australia. The CAM effectively deprives any endangered or critically endangered koala colonies of upgrading, no matter what the circumstances may be.

The Machine@WelcomeMachine1

It’s estimated that koala numbers in Australia have fallen by 95 percent since white settlement, with the marsupial now listed as a vulnerable species.

Three koala experts: Dr Oisin Sweeney, from the NSW… https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/nightlife/koalas/10835842 

How much can a koala bear: is Australia’s cuddly icon headed for extinction?

Estimates of their numbers vary wildly, but experts agree that the koala is facing a very real threat to its very existence.

abc.net.au

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In mid-February, Environmental Defenders Office NSW advised its clients that the Federal Minister for the Environment, Melissa Price, is poised to co-sign “minor” amendments to an Agreement that will outsource national environmental assessment and officially endorse the trajectory of biodiversity decline in NSW.

According to the EDO:

In September, the former Commonwealth Environment Minister published an intent to develop a draft bilateral agreement with NSW in relation to environmental assessments, to potentially accredit these new laws (as the existing agreement accredits the former law and policy). The stated intention included to amend the classes of actions that could be exempt from national assessment requirements, and instead be assessed under the new NSW laws.

 

That intent to endorse new legislation and new standards has since been classified as a “minor” amendment.

 

The website states:

 

Most changes reflect wording in the new NSW legislation. While the relevant parts of the legislation keep the same intent, names and numbers have changed and need amendment in the Bilateral Agreement.

 

This sounds like an exercise in simply updating names and numbers, but it is not. While it is true that the intent of the Bilateral Agreement remains unchanged in relation to the objective to “minimise duplication in the environmental assessment and approval processes of the Commonwealth and NSW”, it is disingenuous to claim the intent of the legislation being accredited is unchanged, given the substantial weakening of NSW biodiversity laws. The actual detail of what laws and standards are being accredited is substantially different.

 

What this actually means is that the Australian Government is proposing to accredit the NSW biodiversity offset scheme, which simply does not meet national standards.

 

By categorising the amendments as “minor”, the process can be done with less scrutiny and accountability. The “minor” amendment process avoids requirements to publish reasons for the agreement, publish a report on any comments received on the draft agreements, and undertake consultation, including a requirement to consider the role and interests of Indigenous peoples in promoting the conservation and ecologically sustainable use of natural resources in the context of the proposed agreement, taking into account Australia’s relevant obligations under the Biodiversity Convention. This is significant as the Government is also quietly extending the agreement to cover Commonwealth land, which often has important biodiversity and cultural values.

The EDO also advised that after a major freedom of information battle, the documents reluctantly provided by the Government demonstrated that the NSW Biodiversity Offset Policy for Major Projects failed to meet the environmental standards of the Commonwealth EPBC Act.

sir martir@martiontwit

‘The invisible minister’: Melissa Price accused of going missing on the environment
The criticism comes during a summer of disasters, including the mass fish kill, Townsville floods & fires in Tasmania https://apple.news/A0gn4FdvENJ2K2qLZcJmNGQ 

‘The invisible minister’: Melissa Price accused of going missing on the environment

The criticism comes during a summer of disasters, including the mass fish kill, Townsville floods and fires in Tasmania

apple.news

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It is not possible to challenge the amended Agreement. Submissions will be made by those organisations which follow the Machiavellian environmental non-policies of the Morrison Government. Without media coverage and given the level of complexity, the likelihood of substantive protest is remote.

Professor George Williams, Dean of the University of NSW Law School advised Australians for Animals Inc. that:

  • NSW and federal laws are not invalid for inconsistency with international law. They can operate despite conflict with international law;
  • a separate issue does arise, though, for federal laws where they are enacted under the external affairs power by way of implementing international law. In that case, they must faithfully implement that international law or face invalidity; and
  • a constitutional issue can arise for a NSW law on the basis that it conflicts with a federal law that implements an international convention. So, the state law may be inconsistent and so invalid under section 109 of the Constitution.

In the final analysis, the difficulties faced by environmental organisations in dealing with a potential constitutional crisis are enormous. Pro bono lawyers are an increasingly endangered species.

The issues raised by the CAM and the amended Agreement will have profound impacts on any attempt to protect wildlife, ecological communities and plants.

There’s little doubt that the governments supporting these measures are fully aware that the majority of conservation organisations are overwhelmed. They’re dealing with major environmental crises such as the Lower Darling River, Murray Darling Basin management, the massive fish kills, catastrophic loss of wildlife, the proposal to dump one million tonnes of sludge in the Great Barrier Reef, deforestation and the state of our rivers taking up every spare moment.

Frankie@MadFrankie99

They can’t be serious. Agreeing to this… in an election year.
Vandalism
Great Barrier Reef authority gives green light to dump dredging sludge https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/20/great-barrier-reef-authority-gives-green-light-to-dump-dredging-sludge?CMP=share_btn_tw 

Great Barrier Reef authority gives green light to dump dredging sludge

A million tonnes of spoil to be disposed of in marine park – prompting calls for a ban on all offshore dumping

theguardian.com

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EDO lawyers are similarly overwhelmed with environmental crises in every state, struggling to cope as funds have been stripped by governments.

With no mainstream media exposing what’s happening behind the scenes, governments who are deaf to protest and the critical importance of healthy ecosystems, Australia is facing an alarming crossroads.

Unfortunately, there’s no Adam Schiff in sight.

You can follow Sue Arnold on Twitter @koalacrisis and Koala Crisis on Facebook here.

 

SOURCE:  https://independentaustralia.net/environment/environment-display/environmental-protection-is-no-simple-matter,12418

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‘LINE IN THE SAND’: NSW LABOR PLANS BLITZ TO UNDO ENVIRONMENTAL ‘MESS’

A Labor government in NSW would expand national parks to protect koalas, curb feral horses, and step up climate change action including setting a target to source half the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030.

‘Line in the sand’: NSW Labor plans blitz to undo environmental ‘mess’

 

A Labor government in NSW would expand national parks to protect koalas, curb feral horses, and step up climate change action including setting a target to source half the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030.

A Climate Change Summit would be called within the first year of a Daley-led government to determine the best pathways to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.

The gathering would inform a Climate Change Act to drive the transition, including the setting of interim goals for 2025, Labor said in a statement.

Land clearing is having a devastating impact on koala numbers in the Moree region.
Land clearing is having a devastating impact on koala numbers in the Moree region.CREDIT:NICK MOIR

 

The burst of election policies, announced on Thursday, was generally welcomed by environment groups, although several called for an immediate moratorium of deforestation of koala habitat to arrest a rapid drop in the numbers of the much-loved marsupial.

“NSW doesn’t have another four years to waste to take real action on climate change and to arrest the biodiversity crisis in the state,” Penny Sharpe, Labor’s deputy leader and environment spokeswoman, said. “This really is the line in the sand.”

 

 

Labor would oppose plans by the Berejiklian government to raise the Warragamba Dam wall that would flood some 50 square kilometres of the Blue Mountains World Heritage National Park, and would renegotiate the purchase of the Radiata Plateau to fold into the park.

Labor would resume the removal of feral brumbies from the Snowy Mountains if elected to office in March.
Labor would resume the removal of feral brumbies from the Snowy Mountains if elected to office in March.CREDIT:ALEX ELLINGHAUSEN

It would also stick with plans to nominate the Royal National Park for World Heritage listing and block the government’s plan to drive the proposed F6 motorway through part of the area.

One protection that would be removed, though, would be that of feral horses in the Kosciuszko National Park. Labor would repeal the controversial Wild Horse Heritage Act introduced in 2018.

Environment Minister Gabrielle Upton, though, dismissed the proposals as Labor’s “latest round of recycled environmental announcements”. These fell short of the government’s achievements including the range of programs paid for by the $1.4 billion Climate Change Fund.

“It has all the appearances of a hastily cobbled together series of statements rather than a state-wide strategy”, she said.

‘Urgent action needed’

Labor is hoping its environment policies will strike a chord with an electorate concerned by climate change if polls are any guide.

“The largest emissions cuts would be available in the electricity sector, where there is the most mature, available and affordable technology,” Adam Searle, Labor’s climate and energy spokesman, said.

Environmental groups applauded the ALP’s plan to expand protected regions and reverse loosened land-clearing laws that anecdotal evidence suggests has led to a rise in vegetation loss. The government hasn’t released land-clearing figures for years.

Labor’s proposal for a taskforce of scientists, conservationists and farmers to recommend laws “capable of stopping deforestation”, however, lacks urgency, the Nature Conservation Council said.

“Our koalas can’t wait for another taskforce because hundreds of hectares of koala habitat are being bulldozed every month,” Kate Smolski, the council’s chief executive, said.

“The crisis faced by nature in NSW requires an immediate moratorium on destruction of koala forests and other threatened species habitat, and a rapid end to logging of our public native forests.”

Lyndon Schneiders, the Wilderness Society’s national campaign director, said 99 per cent of the habitat that was on private land was unprotected, and the animal could be extinct in the wild by mid-century.

Labor would also back tighter air quality standards but omitted a commitment to extending the so-called Load-Based Licensing scheme to include coal mines.

“We are unaware of any justification for this blanket exemption that allows coal mines to emit ever-increasing amounts of particle pollution and other pollutants,” James Whelan, a campaigner for Environmental Justice Australia, said.

Labor will release costings of its plans when they are fully unveiled, Ms Sharpe said.

ACUTE WATER SHORTAGES THREATEN DROUGHT-HIT NSW TOWNS

 

Brewarrina mayor, Cr O’Connor said he chatted at length with Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday to press his region’s concerns. “At least she made the phone call,” he said. “I hope she can do something.”

“We don’t believe the drought is the problem, it’s the way it’s been managed,” he said, noting how much farmland will have a cotton crop even amid water shortages.

“It just beggars belief how much cotton is growing.”

 

 

 

‘Lot of grief’ as acute water shortages threaten drought-hit NSW towns

 

Towns across inland NSW are facing “acute” water shortages, as dam levels dive, rivers wither and towns scramble to drill new bores and prepare to truck in water if the drought fails to break, officials say.

Among the most severely hit are Wilcannia and White Cliffs on the lower Darling River, where water may need to be carted in within about two months.

Cooling off amid extreme heat in the Barwon-Darling River near Bourke in January. The town is likely to switch entirely to bore water next month amid record low flows for Australia's longest river.
Cooling off amid extreme heat in the Barwon-Darling River near Bourke in January. The town is likely to switch entirely to bore water next month amid record low flows for Australia’s longest river.CREDIT:KATE GERAGHTY

 

To the east, Bourke expects to shift entirely to bore water next month as the period of no flows on the Darling sets a record.

Meanwhile, residents in Mendooran in Warrumbungle Shire are on level-6 restrictions that limit shower times to three minutes a day and curb clothes washing to just two loads a week per household.

 

“There’s an acute water shortage in a substantial amount of western NSW,” says James McTavish, the state’s new Town Water Supply Coordinator who is three weeks into the job.
The so-called northern wet season from October to March has brought little rain to ease drought across inland NSW.
The so-called northern wet season from October to March has brought little rain to ease drought across inland NSW. CREDIT:BUREAU OF METEOROLOGY

 

The mass fish kills on the Darling River near Menindee in December and January have already drawn national attention and prompted two scientific investigations. More fish kills are possible and communities will continue to struggle unless rains return soon, scientists say.

On Sunday, Menindee resident Graeme McCrabb was able to simply pick up an ailing Murray cod that was too weak to swim away. Others have died nearby recently.

"Catch of the day" without even trying: Graeme McCrabb picks up an ailing Murray cod in the Darling River near Menindee on Sunday.
“Catch of the day” without even trying: Graeme McCrabb picks up an ailing Murray cod in the Darling River near Menindee on Sunday.CREDIT:VIA GRAEME MCCRABB

 

A similar predicament exists at Keepit Dam, “the Pride of the Namoi”, near Tamworth, which is just 0.5 per cent full. The government has introduced aerators to raise oxygen levels to keep remaining fish alive.

Burrendong Dam, a major reservoir supplying water to the Macquarie River, the Macquarie Marshes and towns such as Dubbo, has dropped sharply even with transfers from Lake Windermere near Mudgee. As of Sunday, Burrendong was at 8 per cent full.

Towns with large Indigenous populations are among the hardest hit. Walgett has been completely on bore water since the Namoi River ceased to flow, and even bore supplies failed briefly in January amid 40-degree heat.

Burrendong Dam is now at 8 per cent full, and dropping rapidly.
Burrendong Dam is now at 8 per cent full, and dropping rapidly.CREDIT:RYAN MACKINTOSH

 

At Brewarrina on the Barwon-Darling, where almost two-thirds of population is Aboriginal, the river is “bone dry”, and “a lot of people have had enough”, Phil O’Connor, the town’s mayor, said. “It’s getting really bad.”

For Wilcannia and White Cliffs, the “substantial water shortages” are because of a lack of ground and surface water, Mr McTavish said.

That means as many as 20 homes in White Cliffs may soon lose raw water supplies to flush their toilets. The local Rural Fire Service may also run out of water to fight fires if they break out in buildings, such as the hospital at Wilcannia, he said.

Kangaroos near White Cliffs in a drought-hit part of far-western NSW in August.
Kangaroos near White Cliffs in a drought-hit part of far-western NSW in August.CREDIT:AAP

 

Towns like Coonabarabran, on level 5 restrictions, have only avoided tighter curbs because of a rush to drill new bores.

From having four before the drought, the town got $2 million funding for eight more, six of which are now operating, Roger Bailey, general manager of Warrumbungle Shire, said.

The nearby Timor Dam is about 18 per cent full, but the last 8 percentage points, or 100 million litres, can’t be recovered, he said.

 

“It’s causing a lot of grief for a lot of people at this point of time,” Mr Bailey said. “It’s just very, very difficult.”

Despite the constraints, towns such as Dubbo, have so far avoided water restrictions. The regional hub of about 40,000 people is sourcing 30 per cent of its water from bores and the rest from the Macquarie River.

A spokesman for Dubbo Regional Council said “if Water NSW [reduced] our allocation entitlement then we will implement our drought management plan where restrictions will be enforced”.

The Council is aware of WaterNSW’s prediction that without inflows, Burrendong dam will be “pumping dead” as soon as the end of the year, even with transfers from Lake Windermere.

“Council has been actively seeking additional groundwater supplies to ensure water security for the region,” he said.

Niall Blair, NSW rural water minister, said water restrictions “are a matter for the local councils”.

Still, Mr McTavish “is talking to all towns to ensure there is greater consistency across all councils”, Mr Blair said.

The coordinator is working with the Critical Water Advisory Panel set up last year, an with all councils – from Walgett to Wentworth – to ensure “all residents have access to a safe and secure water supply,” he said.

Cotton farms near Warren are green even as drought limits flows of the Macquarie River to the nearby Macquarie Marshes.
Cotton farms near Warren are green even as drought limits flows of the Macquarie River to the nearby Macquarie Marshes.CREDIT:JEREMY BUCKINGHAM

 

Brewarrina mayor, Cr O’Connor said he chatted at length with Premier Gladys Berejiklian on Thursday to press his region’s concerns. “At least she made the phone call,” he said. “I hope she can do something.”

“We don’t believe the drought is the problem, it’s the way it’s been managed,” he said, noting how much farmland will have a cotton crop even amid water shortages. “It just beggars belief how much cotton is growing.”

Cotton Australia has been approached for comment.

Whatever the causes, Mr McTavish hopes town preparations to cope with the current dry spell mean “next time we get a drought, we don’t get the same issues again”.

Peter Hannam writes on environment issues for The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.smh.com.au/environment/sustainability/lot-of-grief-as-acute-water-shortages-threaten-drought-hit-nsw-towns-20190222-p50zl5.html

 

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WOLLINDILLY COUNCIL CONDEMNS PLANS FOR 18,000 NEW HOMES IN APPIN!

WOLLONDILLY MAYOR Matthew Deeth  …

“We already have land rezoned at Wilton for over 7000 lots and the government still does not have a plan for water and sewer to service that land.

Our shire is already disadvantaged with access to drinking water, and here the government wants to effectively double and triple our population without planning it right.”

The proposed Special Infrastructure Contribution (SIC) will try to recoup $1,230,000,000 from the development, which is mostly being spent on roads, with only 0.5 per cent being invested in public transport and only 0.1 per cent for health.

 

The council also expressed its absolute objection to Greater Macarthur 2040 at a meeting last December.

 

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Wollondilly Council condemns plans for 18,000 new homes in Appin

Picture: Dean Sewell

Picture: Dean Sewell

Wollondilly councillors have slammed state government plans to build 18,000 new homes in Appin.

 

The new houses were expected to be built under the proposed Greater Macarthur 2040 plan.

However councilllors said the proposed development contributions, as outlined in the proposed Greater Macarthur Special Infrastructure Contribution (SIC), were “grossly inadequate” at Monday night’s council meeting.

 

Wollondilly mayor Matthew Deeth said significant additional funds were required to provide utilities, education and health facilities, as well as emergency service and public transport infrastructure.

 

“It would appear that the SIC is going to be short by hundreds of millions of dollars for community infrastructure that is the responsibility of the state government,” he said.

The controversial Greater Macarthur 2040 plan was released for community comment late last year.

 

However Appin residents were only given five days’ notice to attend the only information drop-in session about the proposal held within the shire.

 

“It is very disappointing, to say the least, that the government thinks it is reasonable to hold a drop in session with such short notice,” he said.

 

“Where is the genuine consultation with the community?

 

“The state government says ‘no housing before infrastructure’ but for Wollondilly this does not hold true.”

 

The Appin plan could potentially bring an additional 54,000 people to Wollondilly if approved, in addition to the expected 45,000 population for Wilton.

 

Cr Deeth said infrastructure must be appropriately sized and provided before the expected increases in population.

 

“Yet again the state government is thrusting another poorly conceived plan upon us to achieve simple housing numbers, without any genuine consideration for providing infrastructure and services for the people, the community or providing adequate protection for our environment,” he said.

 

“This just beggars belief.”

 

Council’s acting planning director Stephen Gardiner said the council had a long-standing position on large scale growth for West Appin, with support for growth at Wilton New Town contingent on not supporting development at West Appin, until 2036.

 

The government report to council raised a number of serious planning concerns around the lack of public transport, no electrified rail, lack of schools, hospitals and emergency services, no commitment to jobs growth and an ad-hoc approach to development.

 

Cr Deeth questioned the motives of the state government.

 

“It seems that the government just doesn’t learn or doesn’t care,” he said.

“Developers are continually being put first to the detriment of our community.

 

“We already have land rezoned at Wilton for over 7000 lots and the government still does not have a plan for water and sewer to service that land.

 

“Our shire is already disadvantaged with access to drinking water, and here the government wants to effectively double and triple our population without planning it right.”

 

The proposed Special Infrastructure Contribution (SIC) will try to recoup $1,230,000,000 from the development, which is mostly being spent on roads, with only 0.5 per cent being invested in public transport and only 0.1 per cent for health.

The council also expressed its absolute objection to Greater Macarthur 2040 at a meeting last December.

 

A copy of the final submission will soon be forwarded to the Premier, Minister for Planning, Opposition Leader and the opposition spokesman for planning.

 

SOURCE:  https://www.wollondillyadvertiser.com.au/story/5915385/wollondilly-council-condemns-plans-for-18000-new-homes-in-appin/?cs=13442&fbclid=IwAR2LEn1uUBQwY2hgisbSU1Q6nOnZSyduEfC-Ji-VN0fYHjw6-wvmyLebkqo

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When water is scarce, we can’t afford to neglect the alternatives to desalination

 

 

The enthusiasm for recycling water that Australians had at the height of the drought little more than a decade ago has waned. Shaney Balcombe/AAP

This is the second of two articles looking at the increasing reliance of Australian cities on desalination plants to supply drinking water, with less emphasis on the alternatives of water recycling and demand management. So what is the best way forward to achieve urban water security?


An important lesson from the Millennium Drought in Australia was the power of individuals to curb their own water use. This was achieved through public education campaigns and water restrictions. It was a popular topic in the media and in daily conversations before the focus turned to desalination for water security.

Water authorities were also expanding the use of treated wastewater – often a polite term for sewage – for “non-potable” uses. These included flushing toilets, watering gardens, and washing cars and laundry.

Today, the emphasis on recycling wastewater in some locations is declining. The arguments for increased water recycling appear to be falling away now that desalinated water is available.


Read more: Cities turn to desalination for water security, but at what cost?


This trend ignores the fact that the potential supply of recycled water increases as populations grow.

Today most Australian wastewater is treated then disposed into local streams, rivers, estuaries and the ocean. In Sydney, for example, the city’s big three outfalls dump nearly 1 billion litres (1,000 megalitres, ML) a day into the ocean.

Where has recycling succeeded?

Australia has several highly successful water recycling projects.

Sydney introduced the Rouse Hill recycled water scheme in 2001. Highly treated wastewater is piped into 32,000 suburban properties in distinct purple pipes. Each property also has the normal “potable” drinking water supply.

Rouse Hill is considered a world-leading urban recycling scheme. South Australia (Mawsons Lakes) and Victoria (Yarra Valley WaterSouth East Water) have similar projects.

Our farmers often struggle to secure water for irrigation. Chronic water shortages across the Murray-Darling river system vividly demonstrate this.


Read more: Damning royal commission report leaves no doubt that we all lose if the Murray-Darling Basin Plan fails


Recycled water can play an important role in agricultural schemes. There are successful examples in South Australia (Virginia Irrigation Scheme), Victoria (Werribee) and New South Wales (Picton).


Read more: It takes a lot of water to feed us, but recycled water could help


Perth has gone further by embracing water recycling for urban use with plans to treat it to a drinking water standard. Part of the extensive treatment process involves reverse osmosis, which is also used in desalination. The treated water is then pumped into groundwater aquifersand stored.

This “groundwater replenishment” adds to the groundwater that contributes about half of the city’s water supply. The Water Corporation of Perth has a long-term aim to recycle 30% of its wastewater.

Southeast Queensland, too, has developed an extensive recycled water system. The Western Corridor Recycled Water Scheme also uses reverse osmosis and can supplement drinking water supplies during droughts.


Read more: More of us are drinking recycled sewage water than most people realise


Demand management works too

Past campaigns to get people to reduce water use achieved significant results.

In Sydney, water use fell steeply under water restrictions (2003-2009). Since the restrictions have ended, consumption has increased under the softer “water wise rules”. Regional centres including (Tamworth) outside of Sydney are under significant water restrictions currently with limited relief in sight.

Despite a 25% increase in Sydney’s population, total demand for drinking water remains lower than before mandatory restrictions were introduced in late 2003. © Sydney Water, used with permission

The Victorian government appears to be the Australian leader in encouraging urban water conservation. Across Melbourne water use per person averaged 161 litres a day over 2016-18. Victoria’s “Target 155” program, first launched in late 2008 and revived in 2016, aims for average use of 155 litres a day.

In a comparison of mainland capitals Melbourne used the least water per residential property, 25% less than the average. Southeast Queensland residents had the second-lowest use, followed by Adelaide. Sydney, Perth and Darwin had the highest use.

Although Melbourne water prices are among the highest of the major cities, lower annual water use meant the city’s households had the lowest water bills in 2016-17, analysis by the Australian Bureau of Meteorology found.

Calculated from Bureau of Meteorology dataAuthor provided

What impact do water prices have?

Clearly, water pricing can be an effective tool to get people to reduce demand. This could partly explain why water use is lower in some cities.

Water bills have several components. Domestic customers pay a service fee to be connected. They then pay for the volume of water they use, plus wastewater charges on top of that. Depending on where you live, you might be charged a flat rate, or a rate that increases as you use more water.

The chart below shows the pricing range in our major cities.


https://datawrapper.dwcdn.net/xIJQR/3/


Flat charges for water per kilolitre (where a kL equals 1,000 litres) apply in Sydney ($2.08/kL)), Darwin ($1.95/kL) and Hobart ($1.06/kL.

However, most water authorities charge low water users a cheaper rate, and increased prices apply for higher consumption. The most expensive water in Australia is for Canberra residents – $4.88 for each kL customers use over 50kL per quarter. The cheapest water is Hobart ($1.06/kL).

Higher fees for higher residential consumption are charged in Canberra, Perth, Southeast Queensland, across South Australia and in Melbourne. In effect, most major water providers penalise high-water-using customers. This creates an incentive to use less.

For example, Yarra Valley Water customers in Melbourne using less than 440 litres a day pay $2.64/kL. From 441-880L/day they are charged $3.11/kL. For more than 881L/day they pay $4.62/kL – 75% more than the lowest rate.

Is recycled water getting priced out of business?

Recycling water may not be viable for Sydney Water. It can cost over $5 per 1kL to produce, but the state pricing regulator, IPART, sets the cost of recycled water to Sydney customers at just under $2 per kL. That’s probably well below the cost of production.

Recycled water, where available, is a little bit more expensive ($2.12/kL) in South Australia.

Subsidies are probably essential for future large recycling schemes. This was the case for a 2017 plan to expand the Virginia Irrigation Scheme. South Australia sought 30% of the capital funding from the Commonwealth.

Where to from here?

Much of southern Australia is facing increasing water stress and capital city water supplies are falling. Expensive desalination plants are gearing up to supply more water. Will they insulate urban residents from the disruption many others are feeling in drought-affected inland and regional locations? Should we be increasing the capacity of our desalination plants?

We recommend that urban Australia should make further use of recycled water. This will also reduce the environmental impact of disposing wastewater in our rivers, estuaries and ocean. All new developments should have recycled water made available, saving our precious potable water for human consumption.

Water conservation should be given the highest priority. Pricing of water that encourages recycling and water conservation should be a national priority.


Read more: This is what Australia’s growing cities need to do to avoid running dry


You can read the first article, on cities’ increasing reliance on desalination, here.