Twenty Thirst Century ; the future of water in Australia - John Archer ****/*

Who will be the first to run out of water?

That's the question the experts are asking.

Could it be Goulburn or Sydney or Perth or perhaps Brisbane?

In the midst of the worst drought for a hundred years, many cities and towns are looking with increasing concern at record low levels in storage dams, diminished river flows and pessimistic rain forecasts.

Computer models predict permanent drought conditions over eastern Australia. If this becomes a reality, we need to plan for our survival as individuals, as communities, as a nation.

Twenty Thirst Century explains why the big package solutions-desalination, recycling and groundwater-may not be as effective as we have been led to believe.

Twenty Thirst Century is a disturbing, incisive and realistic perspective on Australia's water crisis and our options for the future.

This book was amazing. I would urge everyone to read it. It was published in 2005 which I think makes it even more alarming as two years on we're in an even worse off position more than likely.
Its quite a slim volume with quite short succinct points making up the entire work. It took a bit of concentration for the most part, but was still a very compelling read I think. John Archer is the author of twenty books on building, architecture, transport, medicine and the environment. This book is his sixth book on water issues, the most recent Australia's Drinking Water : The coming crisis.
Essentially the issue is loosely broken down into three options Desalination, Recycling the water we use, and Groundwater. I think one of the important points of the problem is accepting that these are the options, there is no fourth hopefully ethereal choice of "rain will come". We are at crisis point, as of today Warragamba Dam is only
38.48 % full. With an estimated "empty date" of 15-6-2012 if water trends continue as they have been. While it may seem far off, that's really only 5 years of water. What are we meant to do then? This is where we come to our three choices which I will attempt to summarise here as I see it

Desalination-which Archer refers to as the great white elephant. Desal technology has been around for more than fifty years. But surprisingly little advancement has been made in the technology in this time. Unlike say cars, or computers, or even toasters, desal isn't that different now to what it was. Essentially its about taking the salt out of the sea to make it drinkable.
Major drawbacks include- it is a very power hungry process, requiring massive amounts of energy to operate the machinery required. This then leads to more greenhouse gases being produced, making climate change and global warming even worse, leading to less rainfall, more melting of polar ice caps. None of these good things. It also produces a poisonous brine by product which is re-pumped into the sea. Which makes the sea saltier, making the next batch produce more brine byproduct which is put back into the sea.... it's a vicious cycle (not to mention destroying the ecosystems of the ocean). There is an argument that the sea can absorb whatever we throw at it, the brine will simply mix into the sea again and all will be happy..... You can't really imagine the sea would tolerate that forever though without some serious side effects.
{Also Desal plants are extremely expensive to build (Millions and millions of dollars) take forever (to build), are problematic and expensive if they break AND the proposed one for Sydney will actually only produce enough water for Sydney's consumption for about 1.5-2 hours per day based on current consumption rates}

Recycling- is loosely broken into two halves, grey water and black water. Grey water is from the kitchen sink, laundry, shower. Black water is toilets. While this is extremely unpopular, only 2% of water used in households is actually used for drinking and cooking. Main problems with using this as an encompassing solution is that homes would need two pipes, one for drinking water and one for grey water and this would cost billions to implement. Rouse Hill apparently has communities being built with this technology which I think is great. To get around the problem of needing two pumps is the idea of treating the water and redirecting it into the dams. Problem with this is fairly obvious, but in actual fact the catchment runs over animal droppings etc all the time as it feeds into the river system anyway... Hmm.

Groundwater -This is one of the options that seems to scream, why aren't they doing this? In Sydney the answer is-they can't. Groundwater is another term for the underground Aquifers around the country. Sydney's largest one is called the Botany aquifer and its located in South West Sydney sort of area, where there is a lot of industry and they have poisoned the water due to the chemicals and runoff seeping into the ground and eventually the water there.

For more info, check out this article.

Very good book, and I am much more water conscious now.

4.5 / 5

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