[ASC-media] Media release: Water, Population and Australia's Urban Future

Jacinta Legg jacinta.legg at science.org.au
Tue Apr 3 06:51:23 CEST 2007





Tuesday 3 April 2007



Water, Population and Australia's Urban Future - 2007 Fenner Conference
on the Environment


Sustainable stewardship of water supplies for Australian communities was
the main focus of the 2007 Fenner Conference on Water, Population and
Australia's Urban Future, organised by the nation's peak science body,
the Australian Academy of Science. Participants included people working
with the public on water-waste issues - mayors, councillors and other
key local figures - as well as experts in related scientific research,
business, water usage, irrigation and government.


The conference examined the critical and increasingly shaky relationship
between water and population in shaping Australia's urban areas and the
ever-expanding suburban fringe. Participants were keen to demonstrate
how local responsibilities and action with creative solutions could
become drivers for national water policy and water management.


The keynote speaker, internationally-renowned climate change and
sustainability expert and Academy Fellow Dr Graeme Pearman, turned the
spotlight on our future prospects for living in a dry climate saying:
'It is a growing movement that says that we in fact are so good at
managing things that we don't have to rely on any consideration of
physical reality'. 


Professor John Langford of Uniwater, a joint venture of the University
of Melbourne and Monash University, presented the talk 'The
Murray-Darling Basin: Down the drain or a vision splendid' in which he
said: 'If the autumn/winter of 2007 is dry, Australia will be in a
critical position...for the first time in our history all the irrigation
storages are at critically low levels...If short term political
influence results in over-allocation of water, it is like printing money
in a time of inflation: all they are doing is degrading the security of
all the other irrigators' entitlements.'


Dr John Williams, Commissioner of the Natural Resources Commission of
New South Wales gave the example of the possibility of huge changes to
land use planning, decisions and regulations especially in terms of
addressing how such population growth needs water. He explained that
here, we need to reverse the practice of the last century, where we
allocated development and then asked the engineers to provide the water.


Professor Kurt Lambeck, President of the Australian Academy of Science,
concluded that 'it is perhaps a thought that the drought and flood
cycles are very much part of the Australian scene, but with the
superimposition of long-term climate trends the period between extreme
cycles will probably shorten. There is the potential that politicians
and policy makers will only pay attention to these issues once the two
cycles - the political cycle and the climate and drought cycle - begin
to have similar time constants.'



Media contact: 

Jack Docherty, Communications Manager,  Tel: (02) 6201-9414,  Email:
jack.docherty at science.org.au

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