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EDITORIAL: Albacutya water: not out of question

It would be so easy to join cynics lining up to shoot down Hindmarsh mayor Ron Ismay’s call for a probe into finding alternative ways to water Lake Albacutya.

Cr Ismay, desperate to get a debate started, unashamedly believes authorities should declare any ideas, be they unusual or seemingly far-fetched, open for discussion. 

He’s gone as far as suggesting there should be serious conversation about whether new Australian desalination technology could be adapted and used in piping purified water from the sea or underground into the Grampians system. 

We can almost hear contemptuous types braying with comments such as: ‘it’s too hard’, ‘it’s too complicated’, ‘there’s no hope’, ‘what nonsense’ and ‘who’s he think he’s kidding?’.

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But in reality, how radical is Cr Ismay’s idea to look beyond a drenched catchment for ways of filling the Wimmera-Mallee’s great terminal lakes?

We’re in Australia after all – where in the past we’ve considered providing water to and for places with undeniable potential and regardless of climate, as more of a challenge than impossible.

If climate-change predictions are accurate, we’re going to receive less rain across the region, not more, in the future.

This means lakes such as Hindmarsh and Albacutya appear destined to always receive water only in rare times of storm-driven floods. And when it does flood, water in these natural and vast boom-and-bust depressions will quickly diminish without consistent follow-up flows. 

This is a traditional pattern, but periods of bust for these lakes have spanned decades and longer and is that what we now want in Victoria?

We forget the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline, while meeting obvious and critical domestic and farmland supply needs, was also going to be the panacea in reinvigorating our terminal lakes.

The pipeline is providing years of water security for a vast area, even in times of drought, and represents one of Victoria’s greatest insurance-policy infrastructure projects.

It is generating enough water savings to expand its reach, providing relief flows for stressed areas of the Wimmera River and opportunities to direct water into targeted recreation lakes in isolated parts of the region. 

But since pipeline commissioning, and even considering 2011 floods, there has never been enough water to overcome obstacles such as considerable evaporation and seepage to even reach Albacutya let alone fill the lake. 

Now, with water in such high demand from the system, it seems an impossibility.

But is it? That’s what Cr Ismay, understanding the socio-economic benefits of regional lakes and waterways and the potential of Hindmarsh Shire wants to know and explore.

His push is far from being about a quick fix and is more about long-term planning.

Large-scale water projects list among some of our nation’s best success stories and we should never be frightened of thinking ‘big’. 

The entire August 7, 2019 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!