You are here

Queensland towns of Dalby, Toowoomba and Maleny, running out of water

Dalby is situated one-hour from Toowoomba, two-and-a-half hours west of Brisbane and three hours from the Gold and Sunshine Coasts. The town faces a severe water shortage and the worst drought in history.
Map of Dalby

The Mayor Ray Brown says the town's in real danger of running out of water and restrictions may be increased to their highest level if the situation doesn't improve.

Cr Brown says the weir is empty and the town's been drawing its water supply from bores.

The construction of a reverse osmosis plant will provide an additional 1.7 million litres per day or about 25% of Dalby's water supply needs on an annual basis. Will allow the conversion of previously unsuitable water into water suitable for town supply purposes of a very high quality, which will improve the overall quality of our town supply. The reverse osmosis produces water at a cost comparable to the treatment of river water but is much more reliable in dry times.
Dalby's economy

Dalby and the surrounding Wambo Shire is is at the centre of rich coal and natural gas reserves which underpin the power generation industry for SE Qld. The region is renowned as a rich agricultural area, growing crops such as cotton, sorghum, wheat, barley, sunflowers, chickpeas, mung beans and corn, as well as the production of lamb, beef and pork.
Dalby's economic forecast looks “bright” as infrastructure developments, a growing resource sector and population increases combine to promote continued business growth.
Over the period to 2031, the population of Dalby is expected to increase by 3,723 persons – or an average annual rate of 0.9% – to a population of approximately 19,734 persons.

El Nino:

El Niño - the extensive warming of the central and eastern Pacific Ocean that leads to a major shift in weather patterns across the Pacific - is often experienced as drought affecting large parts of eastern and northern Australia. The 1982/83 Ash Wednesday bushfires were largely due to drought conditions caused by the El Niño effect. The most recent strong El Niño event was 1997/98.
The El Niño phenomenon affects runoff in catchments serving all major water supply systems in eastern Australia.

IPCC have indicated that El Niño events have become more frequent and drying in the last 30 years compared to the previous 100 hundred years.
Additionally, IPCC make the point that many world climate models indicate that mean conditions that are ‘El Niño-like’ may well prevail in the future.

Fastest-growing region:

Peter Garrett’s decision earlier this month to kill off Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s $1.8 billion project to dam the Mary River at the Traveston Crossing, near Gympie, has got the Premier in a spin about how the Government’s going to manage future population growth without running out of water.
Ms Bligh described the veto as a blow to the residents of Australia’s fastest-growing region. With figures showing 70 per-cent of new arrivals to Queensland settled in the south-east, it’s now critical the government find ways to move people on to regional areas.

Dam levels in Toowoomba, Queensland's biggest inland city, are down to 8.5 per cent.
A pipeline has been built connecting Toowoomba to Brisbane's major water source, the Wivenhoe Dam.

It is due to begin pumping in January. In the meantime, Mayor Peter Taylor says several emergency bores have been sunk to keep the city going.

Obi Obi Creek:

Obi Obi Creek, the town's only source of water of the Sunshine Coast hinterland town of Maleny, received just 39.2mm of rain in November, almost 100mm short of the 140mm November average.

Maleny resident, zoologist and conservationist Dr Les Hall has been in the limelight again lately. And it's all because of his survey of platypus burrows in the banks of the Obi Obi Creek, adjacent to Cornerstone's proposed construction site for a Woolworths supermarket.  Les told the company that the creek bank adjacent to the site has the highest platypus population density compared with any other part of the creek. He said that in his survey he counted an average of one burrow every three metres; some of these were old, some collapsed, but many others along the bank were fresh and in use and some were obviously occupied by mothers and their young.

"No matter what happens, whatever the developers' protections, they will still destroy the platypus burrowing area along the creek bank," Les warned.

The wetlands will also provide habitat and feeding areas for the two bird species, rainbow bee-eater and cattle egret, listed in an international agreement (RAMSAR) that Australia has signed. The two sites will provide habitat for a number of wetland-dependent threatened species.

Obi Obi Creek is the main contributor of water for the Baroon Pocket Dam.  This dam will soon be linked to the southeast Queensland pipeline network.

Water crisis:

‘Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink;’ Thus spoke the Ancient Mariner in the 18th century.

A recent report warns that without global action, demand for water in 2030 will outstrip supply by 40 per cent.

Desalination technology comes with drawbacks as they require significant energy, and pollute the marine environment with hot, hyper-saline and chemical-rich outflow that is discharged back into the ocean. There are already dead areas in our oceans.

There is a limit to the number of dams that can be constructed, the amount of water that households water restrictions, and the number of rivers that can be manipulated and strangled.   

A 2% growth rate means a double of population every 35 years, even if it doesn't sound much.  Growth should be "managed" at a time of climate change and global water and food threats. 

Wivenhoe Dam failure

"Recent pronouncements have left us exposed to a repeat of History. (...with the prospect of dam failure evident since 1992 in the dam levels chart and as yet unexplained). 

Large scale rainfall events occur, on average, every 3.7 years, The panic caused by a 6 year gap will be repeated in the future with the possibility of even larger gaps as wide as 14 years.”

Limitless Growth?

There is no such thing as limitless growth on finite ecosystems, or finite natural resources.

An action plan has been developed in consultation with the body responsible for regional water security, the Queensland Water Commission. There will be four or five tanker loads of water this week (up to 11,000 litres in each tanker) trucked to Maleny.

Despite the massive problems with water in southeast Queensland, it still has an unfettered high rate of population growth. No effort whatsoever has been put into slowing this growth rate. Apparently not even a thought of it from anyone in the state government except for Gold Coast Mayor Ron Clarke.

Bligh acknowledged recently that south-east Queenslanders are beginning to think the lifestyle costs of population growth outweigh the economic benefits. "But population growth is a fact of life in Queensland. We cannot put up the barbed wire fence at the border, we can't stop people having babies, so we have to find a way of coping," she said. She could cap the population and ask our Federal government to stop economic immigration!

The southeast corner of the state is becoming more populated, with an estimated 15,000 people a year moving there from all over Australia in search of a “better life”. Premier Anna Bligh is considering a $3000 boost to the  first-home owners' grant for people buying property outside the southeast.

South-east Queensland already resembles one giant building site, as the State Government spends billions this year alone on bridges, rail extensions and new bus and motorways to help move all these extra people around.

Premier Anna Bligh is not interested in a sustainable water supply for Queensland, but in water to sustain population growth, something that is not fait accompli but socially engineered by immigration and baby bonuses.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh says she has assurances that the town of Dalby won't run out of water. 'If we need to help them truck in water, we'll do that'. She will probably have to!

Image icon drought.jpg30.2 KB
Image icon Dalby.jpg6.08 KB



Thanks. Your article is very pertinent and indentifies a rural symptom of the core ecological problem facing Australia - land degradation from traditonal farming coupled with climate change.

The management problem is that Australia's urban-centric politicans turn a blind eye to rural issues and instead pour billions to perpetuate the obscene weath and bulemic sprawl of Australia's capital cities to the detriment of what they euphemistically label 'the bush'. This systemic neglect of non-urban Australia is beyond urbanism. It is 'urbanist' - a bias towards urban and a bias against rural.

Burgeoning city votes are driving city preferences for investment, population and political attention. The so-called 'bush' suffers again. They even call Newcastle and Townsville bush can you believe it?

Your issue is replicated across inland Australia such as in the two following current articles:

Lachlan River to stop flowing

[ABC, Brad Markham/Michael Condon from Condobolin 2877, Saturday, 5 Dec 09]

"It's now just days until unprecedented steps are taken preserve dwindling water supplies in Wyangala Dam in central-west NSW. The amount of water released from the dam each day into the Lachlan River is to be slashed by about 500 megalitres. That will have major consequences for farmers at places like Condobolin and further downstream.

Releases from the dam, which is less than six per cent full, will be cut from about 700 megalitres a day to 200 megalitres from October 31st. It'll mean the Lachlan River will stop flowing past Condobolin early next month.

"That 200 megalitres a day that we are aiming for is only a predicted flow," says Lachlan Valley Water chairman Dennis Moxey. "It has never been done before that we have run the river in the hot summer months this low."

Mr Moxey says it's an unprecedented situation. "There's been hardly any inflows into Wyangala Dam," he says. Restricting water releases from the dam will affect hundreds of farmers who depend on the river for water.

"It's not just 300 water licence holders below Condobolin who'll be affected," Mr Moxey says. "There's also other farmers whose creek systems will run dry."

Those creeks provide drinking water for livestock and hundreds of people.
"I think it's been hard for people to understand that this is actually going to happen," he says. "But I don't think [the State Government] realises the gravity of the whole situation.

"People are desperate, particularly along the lower part of the Lachlan. Things are just getting worse." While the river will stop flowing at Condobolin, water will still be "pulsed" down to the weir pool which feeds the Lake Cargelligo township.

"If it gets to the stage where that water isn't enough to enable the river to keep flowing to Condobolin, we'll just have to release a bit more water from Wyangala Dam," Mr Moxey says. "That'll mean the resource won't last as long, but we have supply those townships with water."

The mayor of the Lachlan Shire, Des Manwarring, says the situation is serious.
"They tell us if there's no inflows into Wyangala Dam by April the dam will run dry," he says.

Inflows into the Lachlan River have hit record low levels."

Home no more as graziers get big or get out

[Sydney Morning Herald, Brad Markham/Michael Condon from Condobolin 2877, Sunday, 25/10/2009]

"THERE are still pegs on the Hills Hoist, three tiny toy cars are lined up on a brick wall, white curtains with green fern designs hang at the windows, and the speed dial on the wall phone lists local names like ''Bones'', a roo shooter, and Helmers, the town store.

But no one is at home. No one has been home since July 1993, the calendar hanging by the phone indicates.

The homestead on Wongalara station, 90 kilometres west of Wilcannia, is an abandoned farmhouse, one of hundreds of ghostly shells that speak of the old days of the family farm, before the NSW west emptied out.

Its walls are coated in red dust, its floor carpeted with roo and goat droppings, the chicken wire around its tennis court droops, and the children's desks in its entertainment outhouse are ripe for horror movie casting as they cradle a doll whose eyes stare at a sagging ceiling.

Two dead TVs sit on the veranda. Only the cactuses have survived in a garden where the skeletons of once well-tended vines loop around wires. An FJ ute lies abandoned outside a garage where the painted shadows of long-gone tools haunt the walls. A Dunlop volley shoe lies beside a white kangaroo leg bone in the dust. Life was once sweet here.

''Wongalara was the social hub of the area and now there's no one there,'' said the Elders real estate branch manager at Broken Hill, Ian Jaensch.

Seven in 10 of the properties Mr Jaensch is selling have secondary homesteads on them, as neighbour has eaten neighbour in a brutal process called aggregation. Most farms must grow ever bigger to be viable.

''That is the sad long-term fact; it's just inevitable,'' said the Victorian social researcher Neil Barr, the author of The House on the Hill: The Transformation of Australia's Farming Communities.

In his five years in the area, Mr Jaensch estimated, half the properties he had sold went to pastoral corporations. Their farm managers tended to stay a few years and move on, changing the social fabric of the bush, he said.

Bob Pratten acquired Wongalara in 1947 as a returned serviceman. He and his late wife, Joyce, raised four children and ran sheep on its 8600 hectares. They threw tennis parties for 20 to 30 neighbours and their gangs of kids.

Now 88, Mr Pratten has retired to Dubbo. None of the children farms. His daughter, Dianne Spears, a Sydney office worker, remembers mustering with ponies, speedboat rides in a neighbour's lake, and, one drought-stricken summer, spending every day as a teenager ''sweeping one inch of red dust off the verandas''.

The Prattens sold in 1986 to a neighbour, Lin Huddlestone, who amalgamated it with her 27,733-hectare Burragan station and 17,700-hectare Bellvale. The entire property was being sold to a syndicate of local graziers unlikely to use any of the three homesteads for more than a ''crash pad'', Mr Jaensch said.

Mr Pratten has not been back to see the house he built: ''I have called in several times and looked from the hill before you get there but I don't want to go down there, the way they said it was.''

Tiger Quoll
Snowy River 3885

You don't have to go to Africa or the Middle East to see how much the planet is running dry. Just go to California, where, after three years of drought, dozens of towns and cities have imposed mandatory water rationing and a half million acres in the country's agricultural breadbasket are lying fallow.

Arnold Schwarzenegger, the action hero governor, has thrust himself into the fray by requiring towns and cities across the state to reduce their water use by 20 percent over ten years. That means less water to drink, to bathe in, and to water the lawn.

Governor Schwarzenegger only has a year left in office, and he's well aware of the old saying Whisky is for drinking, water is for fighting.

Schwarzenegger says his state is in crisis. We've been in crisis for quite some time because we're now 38 million people and not anymore 18 million people like we were in the late 60s.

He blames the environmentalists who sued under the Endangered Species Act to protect a tiny little fish, the Delta smelt, that was being killed off by California's main water pumps - not unsustainable population growth!

Everybody knows that California is a mess. The budget is an ongoing catastrophe, and public approval of the leadership of the governor and the legislature are at historic lows. The state university system is tottering, and the social safety net is collapsing.

The water crisis in China and California, already severe, is sure to grow worse. Drought, population growth, urbanization, pollution, and inadequate infrastructure have brought water systems to the breaking point in China and California (and much of the US West).

Jeffrey Mount, founder of the Center for Watershed Sciences at the University of California says that three quarters of the water shortages are caused by the drought, not the fish, and he has a message for the farmers: Don't plant crops that have to have water every year. No mention of livestock, population growth, unsustainable agriculture!

Farm hands who used to work in the nation's breadbasket are now standing in breadlines. Some of the vegetables have been sent from, of all places, China.

Why California is Running Dry - 60 Minutes

Arnold Schwarzenegger comes from a sports background, from pumping iron, and now he wants to be famous for pumping water! Unfortunately he must be high on brawn but low on brain!