Here at Environment Victoria we were pretty disappointed by last week’s announcement. But since then, we’ve been heartened by the outcry and comments about relaxing restrictions. Over the past week it’s become pretty clear that a lot of you think it’s a bit of nonsense, with one Herald Sun poll showing that over 70 percent of readers did not support the easing of restrictions.
Now Premier Brumby’s giving us all a free hose nozzle. Nozzles to “mark the end of restrictions” folks, ‘cos we’ll all be getting back to in our gardens now that restrictions have been lifted. But Brumby wants to be sure we’re still not using too much water.
Most Victorians are very clear that water conservation remains critical. But while we’ve all been installing tanks, bucketing grey water and playing on dusty sporting grounds, Premier Brumby has been eyeing an opportunity to deliver something he thinks the electorate wants: lower levels of water restrictions.
Problem is though, just like the desalination plant, lower restrictions aren’t necessarily what many of us want. Especially if there’s even less water security for our rivers – the lifeblood of our communities.
Sure, no one likes water restrictions. But when our dams are still critically low and most of the state’s rivers are at less than ten percent of their average annual flows, presenting the relaxation of Melbourne’s water restrictions as a short-term triumph (in an attempt to make it seem like it’s part of some plan) is verging on hypocrisy and smacks of insincerity.
Target 155, once presented as critical, is now touted as aspirational, and remains in place to “encourage” households to save water. Brumby’s unpopular restrictions announcement is seen as opportunistic, and disconnected from any decent long-term water plan for the state.
Minister Holding even goes so far to state that “The easing of water restrictions in Melbourne would not have been possible without the Tarago Reservoir re-connection, Sugarloaf Pipeline and the desalination plant.”
C’mon Tim, do you really expect us to swallow that?! The pipeline remains controversial, and in the first few weeks of operations is already delivering inflows to the reservoir far below projections. The desalination plant is equally controversial, and hasn’t even been built yet! So how can it be responsible for giving us all an opportunity to water our gardens for an extra few hours each week this autumn?
But perhaps most importantly, when Premier Brumby and Minister Holding talk about a restriction-free future, they’re talking about restrictions on consumptive users only. Right now, what’s gone astray from the water debate in this state, are the rivers and the escalating restrictions placed on them.
Our rivers are restricted from their own water. And the 3 billion and 7 billion litres Brumby last week promised to re-deliver to the Thomson and Yarra just isn’t enough, especially as it’s only to pay-back a fraction of what’s been raided out of the rivers over the years (and that’s on top of the amounts that are taken as a matter of course each year).