By ERWIN CHLANDA
The recharge of the Mereenie bore field, from which Alice Springs is getting most of its water, is moving into sharp focus again as Alice Water Smart is looking for ideas about saving the precious fluid.
Councillor Steve Brown, who heads up the council’s environment committee, says the NT Government owned Power Water Corporation (PWC) is “vandalising” the bore field by sustained pumping of too much water.
He says there should be an independent study of how the resource is used, and he is certain that a significant recharge can take place.
He says the second source of water near town, Rocky Hill, should be brought on stream so Mereenie could have a spell, reducing the risk of its sandstone “solidifying” and closing itself off to the underground rivers.
But John Childs, who spent most of his professional life studying water supply in the NT, says Mereenie is “strong, competent and not suffering from compaction issues”.
However, he says the recharge is only about 5% of the current consumption.
“It is perhaps the best deposit of good quality ground water in inland Australia and we are using it in a very casual way, pouring it onto footpaths and lawns,” says Dr Childs.
“We’re lucky to have a very big resource for a very small population.”
He agrees with PWC estimates that the level is dropping a metre a year – 50 metres since being tapped – now 150 metres below the surface.
Cr Brown says PWC’s endemic money problems have forced the Rocky Hill development onto the back burner.
The company is now seeking to cover up its failures by putting its weight behind Alice Water Smart, an unelected body, says Cr Brown.
These moves may “threaten the future of our town, the way we live here.
“Are we not going to be allowed to have a lawn? Step out of our front door onto a sand hill?
“If necessary, let’s find further resources.”
Says the PWC website: “The water that is stored in the [Mereenie] aquifer is very old, dated 10,000 to 32,000 years old.
“This rain fell in a much wetter climate than our current experience, although some rainfall today reaches the aquifer following flows in the Todd River and Roe Creek.
“Mereenie holds vast amounts of water but some of it is salty.
“It is estimated that the aquifer holds five million megalitres of water suitable for drinking, but only 1.25m megalitres of this is high quality (similar to what you drink now).
“One megalitre is about the amount of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.”
Image: NT Government.