The Big Water Debate
Thursday 11 February 2010
AUDIO recording now available here (mp3 format 36MB)
Keynote address by Professor Ian Lowe, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation "The truth and lies about water politics"
(Including details of all participants)
A sustainable Water Future without compromising the health of interdependent ecosystems is a critical issue for our state and our nation.
Water security is critical to business, agriculture and the quality of our lifestyle and our water future is of significant concern to the South Australian electorate - whether country, regional or city-based. It will be a major policy issue at the forthcoming State election.
Invitations have gone out to major and minor political parties to outline their policies in a debate format and an open question time will be provided afterwards.
Highly respected Professor Ian Lowe, President of the Australian Conservation Foundation will commence proceedings with his address: "The truth and lies about water politics".
The truth and lies about water politics (Notes from Professor Lowe - pdf format) (powerpoint presentation - pdf format)
Water is essential for life. Discussion of water needs to take account of some fundamental truths: South Australia is the driest State of the driest inhabited continent. We also have more variable rainfall than other continents. Both rainfall patterns and subsequent run-off are being altered significantly by climate change. The lower Murray is now in a crisis state as a result of over-extraction of water upstream. People understand these truths and expect serious discussion of water issues in the run-up to the State election.
The water is muddied by some frequently-repeated lies: the Murray is in crisis because of Adelaide's water use, irrigation water is used efficiently to maximise economic benefits, we are doing all that is reasonable to manage demand and to harvest storm-water, we need de-salination and its impacts are minor, privatisation of water is beneficial, all the problems would be solved if the issue was taken over by the Commonwealth government, climate change is not a serious threat. There are also some half-truths: other States are to blame, there is now an effective plan to manage the Murray-Darling system.
About the Water Action Coalition: WAC is a broadly based movement of community groups and environmental organisations seeking an informed and constructive debate on our water future. WAC seeks policies to secure a sustainable supply of water, without compromising the health of interdependent ecosystems, with the goal that these be implemented by the incoming SA Government and sustained by future governments for the benefit of all.
Photographs courtesy Fernando M Goncalves
Professor Ian Lowe AO, Australian Conservation Foundation President
Professor Ian Lowe AO is emeritus professor of science, technology and society at Griffith University in Brisbane, as well as being an adjunct professor at Sunshine Coast University and Flinders University.
Professor Lowe was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2001 for services to science and technology, especially in the area of environmental studies. In 2002 he was awarded a Centenary Medal for contributions to environmental science and won the Eureka Prize for promotion of science. His contributions have also been recognised by the Prime Minister's Environment Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement, the Queensland Premier's Millennium Award for Excellence in Science and the University of NSW Alumni Award for achievement in science. Professor Lowe is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering and was named Humanist of the Year in 1988.
Professor Lowe studied engineering and science at the University of NSW and earned his doctorate in physics from the University of York. He is the author or co-author of 10 Open University books, 10 other books, more than 50 book chapters and over 500 other publications or conference papers.
Professor Lowe has been a referee for the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change, attended the Geneva and Kyoto conferences of the parties to the Framework Convention on Climate Change and was a member of the Australian delegation to the 1999 UNESCO World Conference on Science. He was on the steering group for the UNEP project Global Environmental Outlook, an invited participant in the 2000 workshop on Sustainability Science and a referee for both the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program's 2004 book on planetary science and the 2005 Millennium Assessment Report.
In 2004, Professor Lowe was elected ACF President. He has spent his time as head of ACF using his status as one of the world's foremost climate change scientists to promote awareness of climate change in Australia and the world. In 2009, Professor Lowe won the International Academy of Science's Konrad Lorenz Gold Medal carrying the title: 'Hope for the Future for a Sustainable World'.
While the views presented by speakers within the Hawke Centre public program are their own and are not necessarily those of either the University of South Australia or The Hawke Centre, they are presented in the interest of open debate and discussion in the community and reflect our themes of: strengthening our democracy - valuing our diversity - and building our future.