Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Water Down Under: A Report from Australia by Barb Cosens: Post 1

[My colleague here at the University of Idaho College of Law, Barbara Cosens, is currently visiting in Australia and doing some really interesting water law work there.  She plans to occasionally blog about the experience.  She has agreed to let me re-post some of her blog posts on Land Use Prof Blog where they relate to the themes of this blog.  Many of you know Barb, and I'm sure she'd love to hear from you and your response to her posts.]

Barbara Cosens Photo

Here is more about the program:

Professor Cosens has been selected as a Visiting Professor with the ANZSOG—Goyder Institute Visiting Professors Program in association with Flinders University in Adelaide, South Australia, for a portion of the spring 2015 semester.  Professor Cosens is currently co-chair of a project made possible through the NSF funded National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center to understand the role of law in presenting both barriers and opportunities for adaptive water governance as we enter the era of climate change.  Professor Cosens will bring this research to bear on the Lake Eyre Basin, an internally drained basin covering a large portion of South Australia, Queensland, Northern Territories, and a portion of New South Wales, and linked to the Great Artesian Basin.  

And here is Barb's first post:

Adelaide, South Australia water supply:  Diversification enhances resilience

My husband and I arrived in Adelaide South Australia at 8 pm on January 3, after leaving the west coast of the United States on the evening of January 1.  As with any traveler arriving in the Adelaide airport after 30 hours of flights and airports, my thoughts turned to water.  But as a water geek, I wanted to know more than where the nearest drinking fountain could be found.  Here is what I learned. The provision of drinking water and sanitation is considered an essential service in Australia as it is in the United States. There is limited privatization of drinking water supply in South Australia and the primary water provider is the state owned South Australian Water Corporation (SA Water) established in 1994.  In a tribute to globalization, United Water, the U.S. subsidiary of the French corporation Suez Environnement, once provided some of the operation and maintenance services for water supply in South Australia.  And yes, this is the same United Water that provides drinking water to Boise, Idaho, USA. The water supply for Adelaide, until recently, came primarily from the Murray-Darling basin (85%), local catchment reservoirs (8%) and groundwater (7%).  South Australia entered what would be its worst drought on record in 1995, a drought that would not ease until 2010.  With record low flows on the Murray River and predictions of an overall decline in precipitation of 15-30% by 2050 as the result of climate change, South Australia sought to diversify its water sources with its 2009 Water for Good plan (diversification of source is an important move for enhancing general resilience for you resilience thinkers out there).  In 2011, as part of the plan and just as the drought broke, Adelaide began receiving a portion of its water from a desalination plant located south of the city, and plans are underway to recycle treated waste water for use in irrigation. With this being my first opportunity to possibly be drinking desalinated water, my thoughts also turned to water quality. Reading a textbook on Australian Water published in 2012, I learned that South Australia stood alone among Australian states in its absence of drinking water quality regulation.  I immediately vowed to only drink bottled water (something I generally avoid).  Apparently SA Water had voluntarily undertaken the goal of meeting the federal Australia Drinking Water Guideline (ADWG) including self-imposed requirements for monitoring and reporting, but this did not ease my concern until I learned that things had changed since my law book went to press.  In 2011, the legislature of SA passed the Safe Drinking Water Act to meet the federal ADWG. The Safe Drinking Water Regulations 2012, promulgated to implement the Act, apply to all public and private purveyors of drinking water in South Australia.  The regulations commenced in March 2013. I now happily sip tap water as I write from my balcony overlooking the lovely beach at Glenelg, South Australia.

Look for more posts in this series with the "Water Down Under" title header.


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