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Water politics when it rains…

August 31, 2010

A quick break in my dissertation hibernation to point out an interesting development in Australian water politics (e.g. here, and here). Brumby (Premier of Victoria) and Rann (Premier of South Australia) are both relaxing water restrictions, and now you can wash your car with a bucket. Coincidence? I think not. It’s all about politics and perception.

If you paint water restrictions as temporary hardships to be endured during a temporary condition such as a drought, then people will expect those restrictions to be lifted when things appear to be going better. We’ve had a lot of rain this year.

And the political pressure is worsened by the fact that desalination plants under construction in both states are proving extremely costly. As I have pointed out before, it is politically very difficult to argue for financial and practical sacrifice on water at the same time, especially when some are questioning whether desalination has turned out to be a costly overreaction. If you’re going to make me pay for water security through higher taxes and water prices, then I’m not as open to being told when and how to water my lawn. And maybe I’m not as open to voting for the party that is putting me in that position.

So, this raises the question about water politics: can we engineer our way to water security through desalination, and ALSO promote water efficiency?

Maybe, but the current approach doesn’t seem to be working out so well.

I’ll be back to blogging more regularly in November. See you then!

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