Water foes on same page about exploration


p1913brownsteveBy ERWIN CHLANDA
The two arch foes on issues of water management say they are on the same page about the urgent need for exploration of new resources.
Cr Steve Brown (at right) and Jimmy Cocking, CEO of the Arid Lands Environment Centre, also agree that water use policies should not be a tool for restricting the growth of Alice Springs.
They are members of the Alice Springs Water Committee, a government advisory body that met behind closed doors yesterday.
Cr Brown says the government should spend $10m to $15m a year for an indefinite period to drill exploration wells and monitor underground water flows to get a much clearer picture of the local aquifers.
He says the controversial cap on water use discussed in 2013 seems to be without any legislative basis.
It appears the Roe Creek basin, from which the town’s supply is principally drawn, is good for up to another 35 years, after which Rocky Hill can take over.
There is no reason to block increased water use in the next few years, including an expansion of the current small amount of agriculture, so long as the search for further resources is stepped up dramatically.
p2142-Jimmy-CockingSMMr Cocking (at left) says the outcome of yesterday’s meeting, which considered the government’s next water plan, was “disappointing”.
He says the “cap” is neither legislated nor enforceable, and was meant as an encouragement for more responsible water use.
But for that to work, initiatives such as Cool Mob and Alice Water Smart – both now defunded – need to be in place.
Although water use in the town has been trending downwards, the message of such campaigns is soon forgotten.
The committee will now consider the government’s draft water plan presented yesterday, will seek public comment, and re-convene on April 30. The town council will also consider the draft, says Cr Brown.
The plan is being reviewed every five years.


  1. 35 years? Is that all we’ve got until we’ve exhausted the entire Roe Creek? That’s more than concerning.

  2. Exploration of our water resources is needed to for us to know how the aquifers work, interact with surface water systems and the level of recharge.
    Given the Amadeus Basin is a hot spot for unconventional gas exploration (aka fracking) in the near term, it is critical that we know what our water resources for now and into the future are.
    At present, it seems like we’re flying blind as far as long term water allocation planning goes. There is much that is unknown and assumed that may not necessarily be so.
    The “open for business” mantra that is filtering into every facet of NT government policy needs to ensure that we actually have the resources to be able to do this.
    Water efficiency and renewable energy are two opportunities that we must be investing in at the same time. The quality and consistency of the water and energy supply is the responsibility of the NT government and Power Water Corp.
    How we productively use this energy and water is up to the innovators and entrepreneurs of the region.
    My only concern about all of this is the fact that mining and gas activities operate outside of the Water Act and no consideration of the cumulative impacts of these industries is factored into water planning.
    Oversight or fatal flaw? That’s a question for our so-called representatives.

  3. @ Cherri M.
    No. The 35 years marks the approximate move to Rocky Hill as by that stage water in the Mereenie Aquifer will be becoming uneconomical to extract because of the depth of draw down not because we have used up all the water contained in it.
    No need to panic, Alice has an assured water supply for hundreds of years from presently known resources of Roe Creek and Rocky Hill.
    I would like to see ongoing research into other potential water supplies for the Alice with a view towards allowing the creation of a much larger horticultural precinct. I also expect that the growth rate in the present plan of .4% is likely to be exceeded given the number of large projects on the horizon.
    Because of this I think it would be very prudent to undertake a proper exploration an assessment of the Amadeus Basin, given that it is so large, nearly 8000 square kilometers, and that there may exist a huge untapped resource.
    I think we should make a start on that research ASAP. The urgency I am calling for is centered around the need to get on with the job. There is certainly no urgency or perceived threat in regards to our present supply!
    If your still around in 360 years time, you may have reason to worry!

  4. Water is THE primary determinant of development? Have you ever wondered why the USA has 350 million or so people and Australia only has 23 million? The main reason is water. The USA has far more water than Australia. Combine this with more fertile soils and there you go. It would therefore seem very short sighted to not have defined our available water resources in Central Australia if this is the case.
    The key issue with local supplies of water is quality. Water quality restricts uses and adds cost when you want to use it for domestic supplies. As groundwater sources get deeper or poorer quality then the cost of supply goes up. A big part of the argument for conserving the existing supplies is to keep the cost of water down. Remember, supplying water takes a fair bit of energy. If everyone is happy to pay more for water then technically there is no problem.
    My greatest concern about the water supplies is whether we are using them sensibly and sustainably. A combination of climate, swampies and pools (i.e. lifestyle) means that Alice Springs people use around 4-5 times as much water as the national average per person.
    This means that one of us uses more water than your average household on the east coast. There is clearly a lot of scope to change our habits and prolong the life of our current water supply.
    I am also doubtful of the sustainability of agriculture in the centre. Trying to grow crops in the desert does not make a lot of sense. Yes, entrepreneurs may make money out of it, but I contend only at the expensive of the environment. Perhaps it’s better to focus agricultural endeavours in areas which are better suited?

  5. Things do change. In the eighties it was forecast that Roe Creek would last to 96 and then Rocky Hill would become the assured supply.
    Seems new technology allowed Roe Creek to supply a lot longer than thought. So I wouldn’t worry too much about supply provided finance is available.
    TiTree horticultural production has been going a lot longer than watermelons at Ali Curung. I would be surprised if the bore fields there affect Alice Springs.


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