Idle Thoughts

Water as a Commodity

Round the World on a 'One World' ticket .....
26/03/2010
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Round the World on a 'One World' ticket - one year, three continents, multiple internal flights and some freakish weather.

There were three recurring themes during my journey – rain, torrential rain and cyclones. Odd really, considering that although I experienced torrential rain everywhere, people on each island spoke of the growing implications of the lack of water. In Canberra, the falling levels of the reservoirs are flashed up on large roadside signs. Water is being stripped out of the aquifers under the dry areas north of Melbourne and shipped to the big conurbations in the South that actually have the rainfall, but also have an insatiable thirst. According to an Australian farmer I met in Fiji, fortunes are being made by selling the water rights of farms separately from the land, a short-sighted policy from an ecological standpoint, but very enriching for some farmers, that is until he or his successors have to cope with falling yields because of lack of water and salinization of the soil.

Even in New Zealand there are shortages, a drought alert was issued in the Far North in March this year, and requests for reduction in energy usage have been issued from time-to-time over the past few years because of depleted levels in reservoirs that drive their hydro-electric power production.

As for Fiji, in February their Meteorological Office classified large areas as having a drought and noted that only a cyclone would resolve the problem. Well, they got that! However, it is ironic that, whilst there is a shortage of drinking water in the capital Suva, Fiji is the second largest supplier of bottled water to the US. Ignoring the fact that it takes several more times the volume to produce than is contained in the bottle, Fiji Water has in recent years been accused of all sorts of eco-damaging actions, including draining of the aquifer from which the artesian source is drawn. However, they provide employment for 350 Fijians in a very poor economy and provide social programmes. There is a lot of emotive stuff in the media, you will have to judge for yourself.

I won’t go on, and I am not putting myself up as any sort of eco-warrior – I hate to think what my carbon footprint is – but I was just interested in contrasts encountered and decided to take a look.
Idle Thoughts > Water as a Commodity