Itâs dry. In fact in the last 34 days at our place, just 7 km from the Brisbane CBD, weâve had just one fall of 1.5 mm when it is supposed to rain every second day in March and 11/30 days in April.
Level 5 restrictions came in yesterday, the most important implication being that Big Brotherâs steamy showers may be cut, or at least limited to the mandatory four minutes with water-saving showerheads.
Yesterday ABC local radio went to the Queen Street Mall, where they gave away a 5,000 litre tank and rolled out the Queensland Water Commission Chair Elizabeth Nosworthy to answer questions. This is what we learnt of more general interest:
Households account for 70% of water usage in SE Qld.
When asked why sporting fields are still being watered, Ms Nosworthy said that every effort was being made to maintain a balanced life-style. It was important that kids continue to play sport.
While the installation of water tanks would continue to be supported, getting water that way was much more expensive than large infrastructure.
All new buildings must have water tanks.
Electricity saving would indirectly save water.
They were serious about targeting high volume water users (15% of households use 30% of the water).
Dobbers were encouraged.
We are continually told that by December 2008, when the water grid, the recycling plant and the desalination plant are due to come on stream, that the dams would be 5% full. Ms Nosworthy advised that this assumes no more rain than weâve had in the last 12 months when inflows were 3.8% of the long-term average.
She did well, I thought, and there is little doubt that if the deadline for infrastructure looks like slipping we will have Level 6 or 7 well before December 2008.
There is little doubt also that other options are being considered. The most obvious is the collection of stormwater from the city area. A plumber who used to work for Brisbane Water for many years told me that a pipeline already exists from the outfall at Luggage Point to Oxley (how else would they collect sewage for recycling?). This pipeline could be used to pump storm runoff out of the Brisbane River.
Longer term one source of water might be an invention by Perth inventor Max Whisson who has devised a way of getting water from wind. In the two days after Phillip Adams wrote about this in his column he received 1200 emails, some of them offering serious money to develop his invention.
Shortly thereafter Adams had Whisson on Late Night Live to explain his invention.
It capitalises on the notion that there is masses of water in the air around us. In fact Whisson says that if everyone on earth stood in a windy place and took 1,000 litres out of the air on Monday morning by afternoon there would be no detectable difference in humidity anywhere on the planet.
The system works by refrigerating the air with power derived from Whissonâs windmill. This windmill seems to be the core breakthrough of his invention. Instead of large blades facing the wind he has smaller blades parallel to the ground stacked horizontally. His standard unit would be 5m by 4m for the windmill stacks, with the wind then flowing into a 2 by 2 aperture where it would be cooled by a refrigerated metal sheet.
Not sure how Iâm going with the word picture. As far as I can see his website concentrates on his other invention whereby he hopes to desalinate seawater through evaporation. The bottom line is that one of these water from wind gadgets on a block of units or on a farm shed would deliver 12,000 litres per day at a 40% recovery rate. At 200 litres per person per day (against the 180 we are averaging now) his device would provide water for 60 people.
When asked by Adams how much these things would cost, Whisson didnât know but thought roughly âthe cost of a good carâ?.
The thing about Whissonâs gadget, if it works, is that it doesnât depend on the rain. Nor, of course, does desalination. The Courier Mailâs offering today (we get at least one story a day on the water saga) was their discovery of a report to the Government last year proposing the worldâs biggest desalination plant on Bribie Island.
Anna Bligh, our treasurer, infrastructure supremo and premier in waiting, reckons itâs not needed and environmentally nasty. Bligh also says that according to long-term averages the proposed Traveston Dam, now the subject of a Senate inquiry, has a 90% chance of filling within two years. Yes, Anna, but the climate has changed, and who knows what the average for the next 50 years will be!