It's no secret that the world faces a water crisis, recently described as a “challenge for humanity”, and "the result of uncertain supply and growing demand".
Since about 2000, Clarence Valley Council has implemented water efficiency measures, which have dramatically reduced consumption in an ongoing effort to balance that supply and demand equation.
Last year, Council contracted consultants to undertake a review of its Water Efficiency Strategic Plan, and Implementation Strategy, placing them on public exhibition for comment earlier this year. Those documents thoroughly explored a plethora of measures to further reduce consumption but, oddly, there's no mention of controlling development or population growth, which continue to increase demand for water, despite all the efficiency measures.
This year saw the new jail opened, effectively adding a satellite town the size of Maclean to the consumption network, along with approval of several large residential developments.
Therefore, if efficiency measures were needed to ensure consumption doesn't exceed supply, what is the supply situation, and is it secure? Those questions were asked in submissions to the new plans which, strangely, made no mention of any threats to that supply.
Currently, the entire region from Iluka to Coffs Harbour are wholly dependent on the Nymboida River to provide drinking water.
Threats to the quality of that supply include climate change, through increased evaporation and possible longer droughts and mining accidents spilling toxic waste into the system, potentially making it undrinkable. Other major threats are clear-felling of pine plantations and increased logging intensity causing erosion and increased turbidity as well as the current expansion of intensive horticulture where dam building is already reducing river flows.
Ash from wildfires also threatened to poison our water, but not one of these threats are mentioned in Council's plans. Why? It's a state government problem they say, not ours.
Now however, with a mining exploration licence application being lodged, to drill in an area between the Nymboida and Little Nymboida Rivers, which together supply all the region's water, that problem may be something Council can no longer afford to ignore.
This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 12 , 2020.