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Critique of Environment Victoria's 'Six Steps to Water Leadership' workshop

Thanks for the invitation to be involved in your recent Water leadership workshop. I enjoyed the experience.

Regarding my point about population in the notes you took and have reproduced below, I think your notes play down the problem and don’t reflect the entirely of what I said.

On the current trajectory Melbourne would be 8+ million by 2050- just 34 years away. And it is irresponsible to represent the issue as having any chance of stopping there.

The current growth rate means population would double every 38 years approximately. So by 2088 Melbourne would be 16+ million, and heading for 20 million by end of this century. Should or could we still be using your suggested 100 litres pp by then?

Clearly there is no logical end point on the business as usual model we are on. It is those people that continue to promote BAU who are the dangerous radicals in my opinion. They are prepared to threaten humanity, society and community in order to pursue their ideology. Sound familiar?

We need a campaign to change Australians' view on this issue. Great campaigns have been run in the past to change Australians' views on many important public health and safety issues like smoking, drink driving, safer workplaces, asbestos regulation etc., We’ve successfully changed how we all think about people who behave in ways that threaten our health and safety. Time to use those strategies on the business and climate dinosaurs who pose threats to our very existence.

We need to dismantle the economic model that these dinosaurs have created for themselves, not just re-arrange it. Time for a steady state economy and stable population – see

This is what I think EV should be working towards- everything else is just tinkering with a fundamentally flawed and dangerous model. And, as I said at the workshop, we are all going to get dispirited and exhausted running endless campaigns trying to push back against every outrage that the current system will continue to produce. Where's the sense - or indeed pleasure- in that?


Jenny Warfe

From: Adele Neale [...]
Sent: Friday, December 11, 2015 5:09 PM
To: warfej [...]
Subject: Thanks - Six Steps to Water Leadership workshop

Dear friends

Thanks so much for coming to our ‘Six Steps to Water Leadership’ workshop in Frankston last week. We had a great discussion and you raised many useful and interesting points. These are summarised in the workshop notes included below.

We will be using your feedback to strengthen the Six Steps report. We can already see key areas around education (maybe a new step!) and more on capturing and using stormwater. We will use the revised report as our submission to the State Water Plan Discussion Paper which is due out in February 2016. More on that in the New Year!

If you have any more thoughts or feedback please get in touch – Juliet, 9341 8106,
The report is available here.

And we would love to see you at Environment Victoria's End-of-Year party on Tuesday! It will be a fun and casual event to celebrate Environment Victoria volunteers' efforts, at the rooftop garden at our office building, 60 Leicester St, Carlton, from 5.30pm. Please RSVP here so that we can provide food and drinks for everyone.

Thanks again for your great input, conversation and care for protecting our waterways,

Juliet and Adele

6 Steps to Water Leadership

Frankston workshop notes

General questions and discussion

Water grid? Pipeline, Desalination plant – how are these to be used?
Filling Victoria’s coal mines? Hydro?
Planting trees to hold water in the landscape and create more rain?
Send snail mail to politicians, ministers – they must respond.
Education - How do we get people to care about rivers?
Should be the first Step. Engage in community broadly
In schools. Currently only basic concepts in young years.
Tread lightly, care for your ecological footprint, e.g. reduce meat consumption

Large population, and growing - 8 million people to share the water. Our society is reliant on the number of houses increasing, growth model.
Reducing consumption is also important.

Focusing on Step 1 – A Murray-Darling Basin Plan that restores our rivers, wetlands and national parks

Farmers – move to growing types of food that don’t need much water
In food costs we don’t pay for environmental damage
Cover dams to prevent evaporation
Globalisation of agriculture. E.g. High Chinese demand for baby formula

Focusing on Step 2 – A statewide plan for towns and cities

Water restrictions
Indoor as well as outdoor
Meter monitoring
A personal water use target e.g. 100 litre/person/day to be used
Encourage water tanks
Reduce added bill cost so that water use makes up bigger proportion – there are pros and cons for taking this approach
Green star ratings for buildings
Businesses and residential
Kingston City Council and schools are doing well on this (and this helps with education)
Indigenous plants – they have low water needs
Art exhibition and fundraiser
Cow on Yarra float during Moomba Festival
Culture – use Man From Snowy River
Raingardens. Slow the passage of water moving through the environment.

Focussing on Step 3 – A VEAC inquiry into freshwater ecosystems

What is VEAC? Its purpose is to provide advice to the government. It is a statutory authority. The minister decides what VEAC does work on. You can see VEAC reports are on the website. There has been nothing done on water for 20 years.

Focusing on Step 4 – Reform the Water Act

What determines entitlement to water shares?
Sustainable caps – people use 1/3, rivers get 2/3
Change the Act – no ministerial discretion in decision making

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The obvious solution for water supply, in the face of increasing exponential population growth, is more desal plants! The desalination plant was commissioned at the height of the drought by the Bracks Labor government in 2007, and the final construction milestone was achieved later than scheduled in October 2013.

Victoria needs a desalination plant because of the population growth, climate change and drought. The desalination plant is being put in place to guarantee the reliability of our future water supply. Of course the parameter of population growth is assumed to be fixed, with no debate or democratic input. It's part of our economy, with population needed to keep up our GDP and economic growth model.

The Victorian desalination plant, southeast of Melbourne, will have cost water users $1.2bn by the November 29 state election, rising to $2bn by the end of the next financial year.

The real problem is our government's addiction to population growth, for the benefit of business elite and property investors, but the real costs are passed onto the people of Victoria. What retailer would survive such an arrangement with massive fixed costs and only a small amount for what we are supposed to be paying for - the actual water? It is expensive overshooting our ecological limitations. Access to water and housing are basic human rights, not privileges, but both rights are being violated by our Brumby government.

The cost has soared, despite no water having been drawn from the facility since its opening in 2012. The desalination plant, built to guarantee the state’s water supplies amid the population ponzi. Of course, population keeps being "projected"! If Melbourne’s population had remained stable at 1995 levels, there would have been no need for desalination.

Our "ageing population" needs fresh, young migrants, to stop it's assumed decline! This growth mania capitalizes on our inherent fear of personally ageing, and that ageing population must be bad, crippling, arthritic, and disease-prone - leading to "death" of our economy! So, we need to spend $BILLIONs to secure that growth will continue, despite climate change! The fetish for endless growth is seen as the path to future wealth, but it's about chasing the pot gold at the end of the elusive rainbow. Demographically we'll be confined to the a retirement village, or nursing home, waiting for our economy to shrivel up and die, unless we keep up the growth mantra - and pay out for whatever this monster demands!

Growth is good, but being what's called "stagnant", a stable population, will attract microbes, bacteria, fungii and amoeba!

The true cost of the Wonthaggi Desal Plant is $23.5 billion over the 30 year lifespan of the plant on a take it or leave contract. This does not include operating costs or the cost of infrastructure to get power to the plant, deliver the desalinated water to customers or maintenance. Similarly owned and operated by Melbourne Water as part of the drought proofing of Melbourne was the North South Pipeline at a cost of $1 billion. As the erstwhile Ken Davidson commented at the time Melbourne Water had several options available to it at a fraction of the cost.

The upgrading of the Carrum Water Treatment plant has since been completed at a cost of $159 million further boosting Melbourne's water reserves. The Werribee Water treatment Plant is currently being upgraded and will further enhance Melbourne's reserves. Davo also advocated several other proposals including the catchment of storm water which currently flows down our gutters into drains and streams into the Port Phillip and Westernport Bays. This water by the time it reaches the bays is polluted with various contaminants from sewage, to chemicals, to sediments, to litter.

The water outlook for Melbourne remains "well placed to deal with a warm dry summer" according to Melbourne Water. "Melbournians are to congratulated for continuing to use water wisely (220 litres/person/day) with household demand over 20% lower than 10 years ago" they said. Currently Melbourne's storages are at 70.4% full and water restrictions won't be applied this summer let alone the running of the desal plant. For those wishing to install tanks which come in all shapes and sizes, to catch stormwater, this can be facilitated by purchasing the tank and materials and installing it yourself or getting a plumber/handy(wo)man to do the work and it is relatively cheap. Anybody who suspects that the stormwater may be contaminated can get the water tested by any of the various water testers around Melbourne.

As Jenny Warfe writes, Melbourne on current trends is headed towards being a city of 20 million by the end of the century. I really hate to imagine the quality of life at this point for its inhabitants. The level of hygiene would have to plummet for lack of adequate water to drink, to wash in and for sewerage. Australians seen once by Europeans as people fanatical about showering every day would be long forgotten. When I try to illustrate to my friends the problem we have in Melbourne with our massive population growth, I do so with a picture of Melbourne as a city of 20 million. At this point, nearly everyone says, "Well, I'll be dead by then." It seems that they just give up contemplating the issue when the numbers get too great and the anticipated future is beyond their lifetimes even if they have children or grandchildren who may still be around. How do you get this message across? Does it need to be demonstrated in full technicolor and in 3D? How do we make it real for Environment Victoria and everyone else?