Calls to divert the waters of the Clarence River occur regularly. The latest calls have come from Griffith (once again) in the south-west and Toowoomba to our north.
One of the claims of those promoting dams and diversions is that the water flowing out to sea from the Clarence is wasted.
That is missing the point of the function of natural waterways. They are not concrete-lined drains constructed by engineers to serve humankind. Rivers have developed over millennia to perform geomorphic and ecological functions which involve interactions with the landscape and the myriad of life forms which depend on their water.
All major diversion schemes obviously involve the construction of large dams. Those dreaming of a western diversion envisaged something like a Snowy Scheme of the north with massive tunnels and pumps. Such a scheme would lead to the Clarence below the dam being as degraded as the Snowy River became as a result of the Snowy Scheme.
And if the water was diverted to the Murray-Darling Basin, as those in Griffith and elsewhere over the range would like, would it be used to improve the health of the river systems there or to allow expansion of the cotton industry in the north and horticulture in the south?
Another suggestion is that humankind downstream would benefit if there was a massive dam built on the Clarence for flood protection. In floodtime, particularly when there are very heavy falls across the entire catchment, the volume of water flowing down the Clarence is huge. How big would a flood protection dam have to be? Just how realistic is this idea?
While floods cause problems for humans on floodplains, they are vital to the rejuvenation of the river system. The health of the Clarence and the industries which rely on it – like our important fishing industry - would be severely impacted if such a dam were built just as it would be if the river was dammed for a diversion.
One way of keeping the Clarence River healthy is to ensure that there are no further diversions or dams.
- Leonie Blain
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on May 28, 2018.