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Byron Shire
July 4, 2022

Rous votes to put the Dunoon Dam back on the table

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Skye Roberts before speaking at the Public Access session at the Rous County Council meeting. Photo Tree Faerie.

Rous County Council (RCC) met this morning to decide, amongst other things, to put the controversial Dunoon Dam back on the table, after Rous voted to abandon the idea in late 2020.

Around 200 people opposed to the dam met outside RCC’s Lismore office to make their voices heard.

Before Council looked at the dam motion, Cr Robert Mustow and Cr Sharon Cadwallader were voted in unopposed as Chair and Deputy, respectively.

This was the first meeting of the new Council and unsurprisingly Councillor Big Rob had proposed the motion to reverse a decision already made by a previous RCC.

Hugh Nicholson on his way into Public Access with Rous County Council. Photo Tree Faerie.

Public access

With no community members speaking for the motion, RCC heard from Hugh Nicholson, previous Chair of Rous Ros Irwin and Widjabul Wia-bal woman Skye Roberts during public access.

Hugh Nicholson said the Dunoon Dam was first suggested as a possible water source in 1995. ‘In 1997, when Uncle John Roberts was asked if that was ok with the Traditional Owners, he replied with an emphatic “NO”.

‘Just last week, when Uncle John Roberts who is now an Elder, was speaking to NSW Parliamentarians Catherine Cusack and Cate Faerhmann, he again said “NO” and explained why the area is important to his people.

‘For 25 years, a third of a lifetime, he has tried to protect this area of significant cultural importance for the Widjabul Wya-bal people.’

‘No Dunoon Dam’ protest at the Rous County Council meeting. Photo Tree Faerie.

Stress and mental anguish caused to the Widjabul Wia-bal

‘Imagine the stress and mental anguish caused by being entrusted as the one responsible for protecting Country and being ignored for 25 years!’ said Mr Nicholson.

He then spoke about the Cultural Heritage reports prepared for Rous. ‘If you read these reports you would become aware that, though these studies were not completed, due to weather constraints, there was enough evidence for newspaper headlines over a decade ago (8 December 2011) to report, “Plans for new dam washed away”.

‘A week later an article in The Northern Star reports, “Rous Water announced last week that the discovery of significant Aboriginal sacred sites in the inundation area of the proposed Dunoon Dam added to the growing list of ecological, environmental and cost concerns with the project.”

‘This banner headline story reveals a pre-European cemetery with 25 rock mound burials. This is a site of enormous significance to the Traditional Owners, the Widjabul Wia-bal people of the Bundjalung Nation. It has significance for Australia as a whole. To drown such a site, especially when there are alternatives, would be an act of vandalism.’

Rainwater tanks on all residential properties

No Dunoon Dam opponents at the Rous County Council meeting. Photo Tree Faerie.

Mr Nicholson said there was another newspaper report in 2007 saying Rous Water had a new leader, who had already announced he would be looking at ways to encourage more responsible use of the water resource in the region. ‘The story said “Robert Mustow replaces Phil Silver as the chairman of the water authority. He says he supports a push by the Greens party and the Shires Association of New South Wales for rainwater tanks on all residential properties.”

‘In April 2010 The Northern Star reported – “Rous Water technical services director Wayne Franklin said a desalination plant was one of the options Rous Water would explore as it looked for alternatives to the expensive, and politically difficult, plan to build a new dam at Dunoon.”

‘In 2011, Ballina Mayor Phil Silver said Rous Water “is at a fork in the road” in terms of future water security, and speculated that the Dunoon Dam proposal may be abandoned in favour of “serious demand management and alternative sources.”

‘In June 2014, Susan Meehan, Chair of Rous reported, “high capital costs associated with constructing a large dam, have made Dunoon Dam less preferable to the groundwater and water re-use options”.

‘Recycled drinking water is used by Lismore, Casino, Canberra, Orange, Wagga Wagga, Perth, Singapore and London. It is not new, it is not revolutionary. It is being done.’

Mr Nicholson then shared other news reports. ‘In 2010 The Northern Star reports 17 per cent water loss. In 2020 in The Daily Telegraph Sharon Cadwallader is reported as trying to find the 18 per cent of water “missing” from the Ballina reticulation system.

‘In 2022 in The Echo, Councillor Jeff Johnson reports that 19.5 per cent of water supplied to Ballina by Rous is lost to leaks.

‘To vote for revisiting the Dunoon Dam as an option, is to vote to waste money-gathering more evidence which will just confirm already existing knowledge.

‘The endangered rainforest still exists; the pre-European graves still exist; the koala habitat still exists. There are serious cultural, ecological and expense concerns which is why the Dunoon Dam has been rejected as an option.

‘Reject this motion and let Rous get on with establishing a secure multiple-source, scalable water supply for our region.’

The Widjabul Wia-bal will protect Country

Skye Roberts before her Public Access speech, speaking to ‘No Dunoon Dam’ opponents at the Rous County Council meeting. Photo Tree Faerie.

Widjabul Wia-bal woman of the Bundjalung Nation, Skye Roberts, said she was speaking to Council to represent her Elders and her Nan, Leonee Nowta. ‘I feel that is my duty as the next generation coming through, to step up and protect the Country – protect the land, protect our sacred sites and protect the waterways.

‘It’s my duty as a custodian to do that.’

Ms Roberts then read a statement from her mother Cindy Roberts: ‘We, custodians of Widjabul Wia-bal lands of the Bundjalung nation and neighbouring tribes want you to know that the area to be affected by the proposed Dunoon Dam is very significant to our people.

‘We need to protect this land. It is important to our ancestors and for our future generations to be able to connect to our ancestors and traditions.’

‘No Dunoon Dam’ opponent at the Rous County Council meeting. Photo Tree Faerie.

A living heritage and culture

‘This land holds our relationship with our living heritage and culture,’ she continued.

‘For thousands of generations we have lived on this land and protected it while it protected us and fed us. To destroy this land is to destroy the environment which sustains us.

‘The proposed dam would destroy the learning grounds for future generations.

‘The suggestion to drown our sites to protect them, as stated in the 2013 Cultural Heritage impact assessment is deeply offensive to us.

‘Additionally, the valley to be drowned by the dam at the end of Fraser Road is a site where we were moved to after we were dispossessed just over 100 years ago. It is important as a part of our survival journey.

‘We, the traditional custodians of this land, will not accept its destruction. No compensation will replace its importance to us and our following generations.

‘We call on Rous County Council to return the land that it controls to their traditional custodians. Do not construct the Dunoon Dam – do not destroy our living culture,’ said Ms Roberts.

‘No Dunoon Dam’ protest at the Rous County Council meeting. Photo Tree Faerie.

A friends of the koalas

Ros Irwin spoke about the environment and koalas. ‘I was on Rous County Council for eight years and chaired it for two, so I’m well aware of Rous County Council processes and the issues concerning the dam at Dunoon.

However, whilst I totally oppose the dam for many reasons, including that the dam would decrease Lismore’s water security, I’m here today as a representative of Friends of the Koala (as a former President and Committee member for ten years), and also as a resident of Lismore who is fortunate to have koalas that range through our property.’

Ms Irwin said koalas are on a path to extinction, as reflected in the upgrading of koalas on the east coast to be officially endangered. ‘Once they pass beyond the tipping point, which could be caused by even a single development or road, there is no capacity to save them from extinction – there’s no going back…

‘As koala experts know – contrary to a suggestion made to me by a representative of the pro-dam National Party in regard to the koala habitat that the dam would remove or impact – establishing sanctuaries and fencing them off is something that should simply not occur.

‘Koalas know their ranges and trees, and when those are removed it causes them stress, which is the cause of diseases such as retrovirus and chlamydia that are devastating koalas in many places, and certainly in Lismore.

Many of those gathered were there for the koalas. Photo Tree Faerie.

Dunoon koalas are critical to survival

Ros Irwin went on to say, ‘In regard to Lismore’s koalas, the Dunoon koalas are critical to their survival. They are healthy koalas, whereas those in Lismore are not. They’re genetically poor and inbred, whereas the Dunoon koalas in the north of the LGA are not.

‘They have come from the north and their continued progress to the south is seen, again by koala experts, as the potential salvation through future breeding for Lismore’s koalas.

‘Seventy-two hectares of koala habitat will be drowned, damaged, or fragmented by the dam and this will break the connectivity between these two groups of koalas and will have a disastrous impact on Lismore’s koalas, said Ms Irwin.

If 72 hectares of koala habitat was going to be destroyed, damaged or fragmented in Ballina or Byron Shires, there would be public outcry. However, because the Dunoon Dam site is in the hinterland, the significance is being swept aside as unseen. This habitat cannot be offset or mitigated, and if destroyed, only tips koalas closer to extinction.

Of course, it’s not just koalas who inhabit the area to be inundated. It’s all the wildlife that share their habitat.

We should be truly ashamed as Australians that our country has the worst record in the world in regard to extinction of wildlife, and that Rous can consider even for a moment doing something that will almost guarantee the extinction of koalas in Lismore is shameful.

Rous will be held accountable for loss of the koala

Ros Irwin spoke to around 200 people gathered outside the Rous office. Photo Tree Faerie.

Ros Irwin told councillors, If like me you have have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, I hope you will think about the future you will be leaving to them, and ensure that this dam does not proceed.

After all, in regard to the Dunoon Dam, the future of these wonderful species is in your hands, and you will be held accountable.

The most controversial issue

Byron Shire and Rous Councillor Sarah Ndiaye. Photo Tree Faerie

Byron Shire Council Sarah Ndiaye said that even though it was the first meeting of the new Council, they were already dealing with the most controversial issue.

I’m grateful that over 70 years ago people went ahead and built the Rocky Creek Dam and we’ve had the privilege of turning on the tap whenever we’ve needed to, but with just two per cent of the potable water produced actually used for human consumption, we have a lot other options that don’t involve the Dunoon Dam, she said.

I can’t imagine them doing an environmental study at the time, let alone a cultural heritage study. We know better now that we did almost a century ago.

With a projection of 22 per cent reduction in rainfall do we have the time and energy to spare to waste on continuing to explore an outdated, culturally insensitive, environmentally destructive, potentially unfeasible option that doesn’t even meet the varied needs of our vast landscape and communities?

Election campaigns propagating fear

Cr Ndiaye said some councillors used their election campaigns to propagate quite a lot of fear around certain options. If it came to reverse treatment or reuse, are we somehow better than people in London or Barcelona, and in fact our people in Richmond Valley who seem to manage to drink it – it’s been awarded, in fact, as the best water in Australia.

This area is comparatively unexplored. Are you really going to flood up to six per cent of the last remaining Big Scrub which would be inundated with the dam was built?

The project is listed at $150 million on the website and $220 million in the business papers, and that isn’t even taking into account the 40 per cent increase we’ve seen in the cost of steel, concrete and labour in recent times.

What if it were your ancestors?

What if it were your ancestors? The Dunoon Cemetery is just outside the perimeter of the dam. Photo Timothy Ney.

Cr Ndiaye asked, ‘Does that include compensation? How much would you expect if places that were sacred to you were flooded? If your ancestors were going to be decimated?

‘What is the blowout going to be on a project like this and who’s going to be able to pay for it?

Councillor Ndiaye suggested that there be a workshop to explore the reintroduction of the dam to the Future Water Strategy and that Council await a report on the environmental, social and economic, impacts of the reintroduction of the dam as an option to the Future Water Strategy – her words fell on uninterested ears.

Supportive of investigations into the dam

Ballina Mayor Sharon Cadwallader is the new Rous County Council Deputy Chair. Photo David Lowe.

New Rous Deputy Chair Sharon Cadwallader said she was supportive of continued investigations into the viability of Dunoon Dam.

‘I’ve supported staff recommendations to Council and particularly the one acknowledging the 10,000 submissions, who also wanted further investigations into the dam. I appreciate and I understand communities in our constituent councils having different opinions on the provision of water for their own communities.

‘However, Rous is a regional water supply. And therefore, a regional approach and solution needs to be found. So I’ll be supporting the motion as written.

Cr Cadwallader said this issue is clearly a very important one for many people in the community. ‘I really want to acknowledge the deputations that were made here this morning, I really appreciate those.

‘Water is the lifeblood of our community. We can’t do very much without it, we can’t progress business, which creates jobs, there’s very little we can do without water – for our burgeoning population, we need a secure water supply.

‘The unfortunate thing is with this whole issue is that it was taken off the table – all options were not left on the table, as they should have been, and due process should have been followed, which it wasn’t, she said.

‘So that has set us back now to our 2024 deadline. And that’s going to make it all the more difficult for Rous to actually ensure an ongoing water supply without water restrictions. That’s what I found disappointing about this, we would have been so much further down the track now.

Put all options back on the table

Cr Cadwallader said, ‘We have to get all those options back on the table. Due process has to be followed and the Dunoon Dam may well come back that it’s not viable, but let’s find out. Let’s do what should have been done in the first place. And let’s consult with everybody involved in this. The consultation’s imperative.

Cr Cadwallader said Rous needed to work together for the best outcomes for the community. ‘It has divided our community, but it was very clear to me that the community was very upset, the majority of the community very upset, that all options weren’t left on the table as they should have been.

‘It’s a shame that has happened. But let’s move forward. Let’s move forward in unity so that we can get the best outcome for out community.

Cr Rod Bruem said that he was not ‘pro dam’ and was affronted at that suggestion, but his place on pro-dam Cr Cadwallader’s ticket would suggest otherwise. He did not vote against the motion today.

The Rous Chair called for a vote, and the motion was passed 6:2 with Councillors Mustow, Cadwallader, Humphrys, Gordon, Rob and  Bruem for, and Councillors Ndiaye and Lyon against.


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Indigenous Minister pressured over Dunoon Dam consultation

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Expert says ‘it’s reasonable to rule the Dunoon Dam option out’

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Rule by populist backwoods hicks

With the new Rous County Council (RCC) being made up of 6:2 pro-dam councillors there is now a demand for RCC to shelve the current Integrated Water Cycle Management Strategy (IWCM) and put the Dunoon Dam (DD) back on...

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Rous votes to put the Dunoon Dam back on the table

Rous County Council met this morning to decide, amongst other things, to put the controversial Dunoon Dam back on the table, after Rous voted to abandon the idea in late 2020.

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Pin-up koala D’vine of The Channon dies

The much-loved koala D’vine, whose image has highlighted the importance of local koalas, has died at The Channon.

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Is 10,000 signatures enough to tip the balance 31,531 of voters

Water Northern Rivers has responded to business papers on the Rous website in which a Notice of Motion to put the Dunoon Dam back on the table has been put on the agenda for the Rous County Council meeting on Wednesday.

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25 COMMENTS

  1. It is a fact that Australia is one of the driest continents in the world.
    Therefore it is inevitable with rising population growth, we must come to an abrupt halt if for water all we rely on is rain.
    Desalination from the ocean has to be our future.
    Why not start now instead of destroying the environment.

    • Emily show us the CO2 footprint over a 100 year timeframe to construct and operate a desalination plant, the pipelines and the pumps – so we can all see the extent to which this option will destroy the environment.

      And likewise for the other options

      • Shane, there is no CO2 footprint from a desal plant run on non carbon based electricity supply, eg Byron Councils supply which is 60%wind and 40% offset. And after construction costs, stats from existing plants indicate that a desal plant apears to provide cheaper water than existing supply from Rous, and a constant supply that is not dependent on rainfall.

  2. Ros Irwin said that the new Dunoon Dam would decrease Lismore’s water security. It would be impossible for a well managed and competent water supply authority to build a 50GL dam and decrease water security.

    However Rous has in the past massively underused Emigrant Creek Dam, groundwater bores and the $40m+ WIlsons River supply (built in 2008) that dramatically reduced the region’s water security. This was most evident In the early 2000’s when Rocky Creek Dam dropped to 23% (when Ros Irwin was on Rous), and in the last six months of 2019 when Rocky Creek Dam dropped from full to 64%. In both these periods the smaller water supplies were either not used, or used at a fraction of their available output.

    Whatever Rous does, it needs much better management or else the ratepayers will be paying much more, and remember Rous plans to double water charges in the next 8 years.

  3. More housing, more people , more water demand and more destructive dams
    More people, more untrained dogs and more cats out at night killing wildlife,
    More people , more cars, more road kill, more roads.
    More people, more clearing for houses and roads, more habitat destruction.
    More people, more waterway pollution, more land fill
    More people, more energy use, more carbon, more global warming
    CONTROLLING THE POPULATION INCREASE IS THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM. THE GROWTH ECONOMY HAS TO STOP BEFORE IT STOPS US.
    I know. I grew up in filthy London.

    • OK Ronald – so what do you do about the current surge of Metro/Covid-refugees avidly buying into this Region ?
      Unless Australia becomes a dictatorship you have a snowball’s chance in hell in stopping future cashed-up aspirants flooding to “Paradise”.
      So maybe it could be prudent to start infrastructure planning right now, anticipating our ‘destructive’ future, rather than hand-wringing ?
      Or perhaps a swingeing lock-up of all coastal development land & houses to form a ‘No Development Zone” may work, as some activists in our Community have been trying to do for 45 years.
      This “new coastal zone” could then be safely dedicated to native title/koalas/existing residents only.
      But could this eco-dystopian dream actually work ?
      I doubt it somehow…

  4. The Dunoon Dam was ‘taken off the table’ due to the well known environmental, cultural and environmental issues associated with a dam proposal in that location. It should have been ‘taken off the table’ in 1997 when Uncle John Roberts, a traditional owner, gave an emphatic NO. To spend more ratepayers money 25 years later, and delay further work on other water security measures is a disgrace and Councillors playing this game should be held to account.

    The article quotes newly elected Rous Deputy Chair Cr Cadwallader as saying. ‘It has divided our community, but it was very clear to me that the community was very upset, the majority of the community very upset, that all options weren’t left on the table as they should have been. ‘It’s a shame that has happened. But let’s move forward. Let’s move forward in unity so that we can get the best outcome for out community.’

    The community was upset and divided due to false and emotive language used by Cr Sharon Cadwallader during the election campaign and through the petition which she coordinated, market stalls she held, media posts etc with the slogans like ‘drinking toilet water’ and ‘toilet to tap’, etc.

    To call for unity now that you have achieved your electoral ambitions whilst still supporting further delays and money to be spent on further investigations of the Dunoon Dan reeks of hypocrisy.

  5. I’m upset. I can hardly believe that the dam is back on the table. Let’s fix the leaking pipes all through the shires. Let’s educate people on water conservation. Let’s leave this koala habitat alone. Let’s respect the strongly held views of the traditional owners who have had to fight against this dam over and over again.
    Let’s look for creative solutions instead of relying on outdated ideas and technology.

  6. Interesting to note that a ‘significant’ cultural site was ‘discovered’. If it was that significant, why wasn’t it known about? Just sayin’ …

    • It was ‘discovered’ in the original cultural heritage assessment (of which 2 have been done) over 20 years ago! Please don’t insinuate this is fake heritage, Nicholas! Just because Sharon and co religiously fail to mention the Widjabul- Wiabul people and their sacred sites and the research done on them ( did you know the highly regarded archeologist who discovered the remains of a different human ancestor- the ‘hobbits’ on an island of Indonesia- was the expert who verified the age of the burial mounds at the Dunoon site?) does not make them unreal or recently made up!!! It makes Sharon and co look like racists – trying to do a Terra Nullius all over again!

  7. We have a sturdy table, 6 feet by 4 feet with four legs.
    Will someone tell the chair of Rous Country Council and its councillors that a dam weighing every thousand tonnes will not fit back on the table.
    The community are overweighed by the thought of it.

  8. Two dams on the one creek at the cost of culture and habitat so more new estates can go up on prime farming land as fast as possible, if people sit back and let this happen, generation to come will be looking back at what a bunch of narrow sighted self serving cretins they were that pushed for the destruction of a large part of what makes this place special, out unique environments
    Koala’s need endangered status more than ever, with people hell bent on destruction and division making such poor decisions.

      • They aren’t sure of the cost or suitability or this site yet, culture and habitat aside, dams are not the only option, nor the best.

        • Dingo that may be true that a dam is not the best option. But also, it may not be true. There is only one other option that is weather-independent (the ONLY such option): desal. It may be a worse option than a dam. You have made no contribution to determining which is the best option, I note. For me, the default assumption is that desal and pumping would be too big a CO2 footprint, but we need to see the calculations/modelling to know. I have asked, many times, but no-one, opponents, Rous Water or anyone, will try to engage with this. So we have a purely ideological debate. Which does not serve our interest.

          You have not answered my question, and I doubt the site is as poorly understood as you are making it out to be. How do you come to the conclusion that dams are not the best option, after stating that “they aren’t sure of the cost or suitability… yet” in lieu of answering my question, other than by pursuing an ideological position?

  9. Why does Cr Cadwallader keep talking about “10,000 submissions” when they don’t exist? Cadwallader, Cr Rob, ex-Nationals candidate Austin Curtin and co. created a bogus spiel about having to drink toilet water unless another dam is built, attached it to a petition, and got 10,000 signatures.
    Not submissions.
    It’s amazing what some people will do for power, and also amazing that people believe their spin and vote for them.

  10. Dingo that may be true that a dam is not the best option. But also, it may not be true. There is only one other option that is weather-independent (the ONLY such option): desal. It may be a worse option than a dam. You have made no contribution to determining which is the best option, I note. For me, the default assumption is that desal and pumping would be too big a CO2 footprint, but we need to see the calculations/modelling to know. I have asked, many times, but no-one, opponents, Rous Water or anyone, will try to engage with this. So we have a purely ideological debate. Which does not serve our interest.

    You have not answered my question, and I doubt the site is as poorly understood as you are making it out to be. How do you come to the conclusion that dams are not the best option, after stating that “they aren’t sure of the cost or suitability… yet” in lieu of answering my question, other than by pursuing an ideological position?

  11. So once again Hugh Nicholson, acting out of ideology alone, pushes the idea of rainwater tanks as a solution.

    So, once again, I will explain the reality with the (simple) mathematical calculation: to replace a 50 gigaliltre (50 billion litre) dam storage with water tanks would take 2.2 million of those big 22,000 litre (5000 gallon) water tanks we put on rural properties. Imagine how much oil or gas, and energy, we need to manufacture 2.2 million of those 400kg plastic tanks (44 tanks for each of 50,000 households, or 22 tanks each if we go ahead and cover the entire Alstonville Plateau with more houses). The answer: around 800,000 tonnes of plastic and huge amounts of energy.

    DuraPlas would have a coronary thinking about it. We would need a coal seam gas field to supply the material. Or a supertanker terminal in Ballina to bring it in from elsewhere (NIMBY).

    Or, I could flip the equation and calculate how much water we store if we put just one huge 22,000 litre water tank in the backyard of each of 50,000 Rous Water households (or in parks in the suburbs for each apartment): 1.1 gigalitres. That is only about 8% of the capacity of the existing Rocky Creek dam I think – and good luck getting everyone to have even one of these huge tanks in their yard, and the parks filled with them.

    Then there is the kilometres of water pipes from all these tanks, and 50,000 water pumps needed (well maybe less as some will be at altitude, but one gets the picture (loads more resource use and CO2 footprint)…

    Hugh, this is not a sensible proposal is it?

    It is just a way to try to pretend there is an alternative solution in water tanks, and you (and the Greens if it is true they support it) are embarrassing yourself ignoring this mathematical reality to continue with this “rainwater tank solution” propaganda purely out of anti-dam ideology

    • Part of a multi-faceted approach to wiser more sustainable water use rather than just building expectation and expanding until demand catches up Then there is also storm water harvesting that simultaneously alleviates the environmental damage done by contaminants and unnatural flow patterns created by urbanisation.

  12. Rain-water tanks can be a dangerous health-hazard – just ask the NSW Health Dept.
    Alone the build-up of bird/bat faeces on domestic rooves is quite disgusting – when/if you ever bother to inspect them.
    Sorry, even a “first flush-valve” doesn’t stop this potential toxicity problem either.

  13. John, you will have to explain what type of energy “offset” energy is.

    The reality is that we don’t have sufficient renewable energy to meet current demand, so moving renewable energy away from its first purpose – replacing coal – to another purpose just results in burning more coal to meet existing demand. No gain. It will be this way for quite a while to come, potentially forever if we continue to overrun installation of renewables with even bigger increases in energy use.

    Down the track, one day, maybe, we could end up using renewables to power desal and massive pumping of water uphill. But there is still the construction of all this, including the mining of raw materials, processing if raw materials, manufacturing of pumps, pipes and desal plant components, transport, etc. This is what whole-of-life-cycle means.

    Now, you have not even tried to answer my question in any sensible (quantified) way beyond that weird provision of two percentages, one of which refers to a type of energy that does not exist. That is not very convincing of your assertion that desal is the only option to consider

  14. Yes Liz, bit dams are ecosystems so can filter water where water tanks can’t. Plus provide homes to fish, ducks, etc.

    As for only a fraction of water going (directly) into our body, that is true but not relevant to the consideration of how much water we need – as we need other water uses too, especially for agricultural production

  15. Shane I don’t know of any dams that are considered to sufficiently filter the water that it is thought ready to be sent untreated to households. What’s usually involved is a treatment plant and chemicals applied to all the water regardless of whether it is to be used to drink, flush toilets, wash people/clothes/dishes or water the garden.

    I’m not suggesting tanks are the complete answer – although thousands of people in this country (including me) have survived relying on their household water coming from the rainwater collected in them. What is required is a multi-faceted approach that combines better harvesting of water – tanks, stormwater harvesting, recycling etc – with better management of the expectations surrounding a finite resource. The latter might include water wise education and enforcement, regulation that considers that there needs to be some curb on urban development and the viability of water intensive crops like cotton and rice in uncertain rainfall conditions.

    The land that will be flooded also provides a very vital ecosystem, including a home to a species that has gone from threatened to endangered in almost the same week as this discredited option has been foisted back onto the community.

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A community screening of Local Futures’ new film, 'Planet Local: A Quiet Revolution', will be held today, Friday, July 1, at The Farm in Byron Bay from 6pm. Damon Gameau and Pacha Light will be joining Helena Norberg-Hodge for a discussion afterwards.