Category Archives: Climate change

Cobar Water Supply September 2019

The Situation

The Cobar population is 3,990 (2018 Census) with a few hundred pastoralists and miners beyond the urban area. Cobar obtains its water from the Burrendong Dam, 390 km to the south-east. Water restrictions are in force and it is assumed water consumption is encouraged to be around 150 L/p/d, that is 598,000 litres – say 600,000 litres per day (0.6 ML) or 220 ML/year. This is in line with other regional centres experiencing water shortage.

The 2017-18 Water Report released by Cobar Shire Council summarises water consumption under its jurisdiction:

Distribution Mega Litres
Cobar Shire Council  (1) 1395
Peak Gold Mine                           474
Endeavour Mining 726
Cobar Management  (2) 933
Minor Consumers (3)  60
Total (4)                         3588
Pumped from Nyngan Weir (5)                         4034

1 Cobar Shire Council data includes consumption for domestic, business, agriculture and industrial users. With an estimated domestic consumption of 220 ML/year, other consumers aggregate 1175 ML/year.

2 Cobar Management – this is water supplied to the CSA Mine. 

3 Minor Consumers – users obtaining water along the Nyngan-Cobar pipeline.

4 The difference between 4 and 5 is 446 ML – water loss/other users?  

Cobar Water Supply

The town water supply is obtained from the Burrendong Dam, 390 km south-east of Cobar. From the dam water is pumped 190 km to Warren on the Macquarie river then along the 75 km open Albert Priest Channel to the Nyngan weir pools; finally by pipeline for 130 km to the Fort Bourke filtration plant in Cobar.

The Burrendong Dam has a capacity of 1,188,000 ML but, due to drought, capacity has reduced to 4.6% (54,608 ML) and declining. Currently water is being released at 150 ML/day equivalent to 34,750 ML/year. This is a serious situation since current capacity is 54,608 ML and falling. Without rain the dam will be empty before mid 2020. On 16th September on ABC AM, the Deputy Prime Minister warned that the dam upon which Dubbo relies, could be effectively out of water by year end.

The Cobar allocation from Burrendong Dam has been reduced from 3,588 ML (2018) to 1,850 ML/year, equivalent to 5.1 ML/day. Daily release from the Burrendong dam is currently 150 ML/day. Working on a drought allowance of 150 L/p/d the daily distribution in mega litres might be Cobar 5 (includes industry etc), Dubbo 11 with the balance of 136 applied to industry, irrigation and other rural settlements.,  With water restrictions in force and the Cobar population consuming 150 L/p/d this equates to 0.6 ML/day, which permits 4.5 ML/day for agricultural industrial use. Domestic consumption appears to be in line with Tenterfield and Orange.

History Ancient and Modern

Cobar has no natural water supply. With the discovery of copper in 1869 water has remained a critical problem. Initial supplies were from a small earth dam. Later in-ground tanks were constructed that were filled from local runoff. In 1942, the Albert Priest Open Channel was constructed from Warren on the Macquarie River to the Nyngan Weir Pools. Water was then freighted by rail to Cobar. A 131 km pipeline to Louth on the Darling River was mooted but rejected. A modern water supply was completed in 1963 with the construction of a 300 mm pipeline between Nyngan and Cobar. This was expanded by the addition of a 375 mm pipeline a few years later. The system operates under the Cobar Water Supply Act 1963. Corrosion has developed in the 300 mm line and a $10 million repair and upgrade of the Nyngan storage weirs is planned.

The Cobar Shire has recently circulated a plan, “Nyngan Cobar Water Security Paper’, recommending replacement of the open Albert Priest Channel by a pipeline with a project cost of $70 million. There are concerns by the irrigation industry in Nyngan Shire that it would be disadvantaged if this plan is adopted.

Future Development Restrictions

The Cobar Shire Council has advised that, under the provisions of the Water Management Act 2000, water allocations to Cobar from the Burrendong Dam cannot be increased to service expanding industry or mining activity. New water requirements must be purchased from existing license holders. This policy has the potential to inhibit population and economic growth throughout the Central West and north to the Queensland Granite Belt.

Mining companies operating round Cobar have been warned by the Shire they may have to cease operations by December 2019 due to declining levels in the Burrendong Dam. In May, dam levels were at 6.0%; by September levels had fallen to 4.6% capacity; by December capacity with increased evaporation, could decline below 3.0%.

Since July 2018, the River Murray system has remained in the driest 7% of records over the past 114 years. The Bureau of Meteorology has estimated that there is a 50% chance an El Niño will develop in 2019 and this estimate is double the normal likelihood at this time of year. The current weather system will be exacerbated by a sudden stratospheric warming event (see last page) moving from the Antarctic into southern Australia. According to the Bureau of Meteorology, the last event over southern Australia occurred in 2002 and caused increased warming during the summer months – again during a severe drought at that time.

The Last Drop

Cobar has no local effective water supply and relies on pipeline water from the Burrendong Dam, 390 km to the south-east. The dam is at 4.0% capacity and will be effectively empty by yearend. Water will have to be imported using NSW Railways. Since the system is radial on Sydney. the option for obtaining water from the southern supplies, except by road haulage, are restricted. Sydney’s principal water reserve, Warragamba Dam, is at less than 40% capacity and has extracted water from the Shoalhaven to top up its own supplies.

On ABC AM, 16th September, the Deputy Prime Minister spoke on water shortage in New South Wales. In particular, Dubbo (population 76,000 – 2016 Census) would be without water by yearend. Rationed at 100 L/p/d this equates to nearly 7 mega litres per day. The Deputy Prime Minister mentioned a National Water Grid Authority is to be created to attend to water security and distribution across eastern Australia. However, a lead time for results was not specified. A penultimate comment was “It must rain eventually”. It was a depressing interview. Concluding this penultimate paragraph is a further example of Government futility under crisis. Barnaby Joyce is appointed the sinecure of Drought Envoy by the Morrison Government. No report is required and nothing has materialised  except SMS messages to the PM, estimated cost to date $200,000 for this quango.

The Minister’s observation that Dubbo could be out of water by yearend reinforces the warning by Cobar Shire that mining operations may have to cease by the end of 2019. The Central West will still be hoping for spring rains between September and November but the BOM forecast is not encouraging. It is now probable, however, there will be water transfer from Windermere Dam (31% capacity, 20th September) to the Burrengdong Dam to supply emergency water to the Central West.

Sudden Stratospheric Warming  30 August 2019



Cobar Water Board, ——–, History NSW Government, 2000, Water Management Act 2000 NSW Department of Primary Industry, 2007,  Cobar’s Mining History Nyngan Observer, 2 June 2017, Albert Priest Channel Cobar Weekly, 21 June 2017, Cobar Water Health Standard Cobar Water Board, 2017-18, Annual Report Daily Liberal, 2 February 2018, Cobar Water Supply Utility Engineering, 11 May 2018, Infrastructure Upgrade Cobar Shire Council, ——– , Water Cobar Shire Council, April 2019,Water The Guardian, 24 May 2019, NSW Towns face Water Emergency Water NSW, 2 September 2019,Regional Water Availability The Guardian, 23 September 2019, Barnaby Joyce, Drought Envoy

John Hugh Hill   Current Affairs Flash Points

Tenterfield Water Supply August 2019

KL-1 thousand L, ML-1 million L, GL-1 billion L


There is growing realisation that New South Wales, and more generally southeast Australia, is facing an emerging water crisis. Evidence for this situation is:

  • In February 2019, the Mayors of Bathurst, Dubbo, and Orange met with bureaucrats from NSW Water to discuss water supply.
  • In June 2019, the NSW Government announced that Tamworth, Orange, Cobar, Tenterfield and Guyra were facing critical water shortages.
  • In July 2019, desalination plants were installed at Walgett, Bourke and Tenterfield to produce potable water from saline bore water.
  • Water is now being carted to Murrurundi, Upper Hunter.
  • The Tenterfield town management, in a statement on water supply, intimated there are thirty-eight centres in NSW with serious water supply problems.


There are 4086 Tenterfield residents serviced by the Tenterfield dam which has a capacity of 1393 ML. By mid-August reserves had declined to 32% (445 mega litres) and falling rapidly. Water consumption is around 700,000 L/day (nearly 1 mega litre per day) which is equivalent to 171 L/person/day. The Administration has successfully reduced consumption from 1.3 ML per day. With reserves falling by a few percentage points each month due to increasing evaporation, increasing pressure on use, pipeline/treatment losses and lower level anoxic water, there is less than one year supply of potable water. To extend dam life, a desalination plant has been installed alongside the Shirley Park bore which supplies one mega litre  on alternate days to the dam then on to the water filtration plant.

The Tenterfield dam is located a short distance upstream from the township. It was constructed in 1930s and was refurbished in the 19050s. As a precaution against violent natural events, the dam wall was reinforced at the request of the NSW Dam Safety Committee in 2016.

Water restrictions are in force and inhabitants are requested to make extra effort to limit consumption. Despite tight controls, the Tenterfield Shire Council has expressed concern at the high rate of draw down from the Emergency Dispensary Station. Through over use, consumption has increased to 171 L/p/d – that is 700,000 L/day. The problem is that many residents maintain stock on their small township properties that continue to use the town supply rather than bore water. This situation is compounded by the National Resources Access Regulator, which has denied access to the Apex Park bore for stock use, retaining this water, presumably, for emergency use.

By July 2019, the water reserve had reduced to 32% and is declining rapidly. Despite restrictions, consumption was running at 700,000 litres per day, which is almost a mega litre.


Some months ago, the Shirley Park bore was refurbished to supply between 600,000 to one million litres per day of saline water to the dam. At the end of July, a desalination plant was installed alongside the bore that now treats 70-75 kilolitres per day which goes direct to the filtration plant. The bore also produces one mega litre on alternate days which is pumped into the dam.  The desalination plant was provided by Rural Aid, an unfunded non-Government organisation, at a cost of $120,000. Several towns and villages intend to obtain a similar plant.

The Tenterfield Shire Council has requested consulting geologists, Geo9 PL and Zoic PL, to select sites, run a drilling program and test bore water for immediate use. If these investigations are unsuccessful the Shire Council has indicated water will ultimately have to be imported.


The objective of the Drought Management Plan is to provide the community with a functional and sustainable water supply during extended drought. Currently, the drought is at Stage 4.5, with dam level at 30% capacity; this permits water consumption between 170-240 L/p/d. At Stage 7, with a dam level at <10% water consumption will be reduced to 100 L/p/d. At current Stage 4.5, the Shire Council will now be considering alternate water supply options. In the event “water storage is depleted Lismore’s water supply would most likely be commissioned”.  Under these conditions, consumption in Tenterfield would be reduced from 0.7 ML per day to 0.35 ML/day (85-100 L/p/d). According to Council this would require twenty tanker loads per day, each of 20,000 litres, to satisfy this requirement.

Using Freight Metrics –Truck Operating Calculator, a pre-feasibility estimate for water cartage costs between Lismore and Tenterfield is $768,000 per month.

Parameters are:

  • Lismore to Tenterfield return -350 km.
  • B-Double tanker – 24 tonnes.
  • Cost per trip – $1,587, say $1600.
  • Truck movements per day – 20.
  • Working month – 24 days, 6-day week.
  • Cost per resident (4086) is $790 per month.

Cartage costs appear to be the same order of magnitude as those quoted by the Southern Downs Regional Council for water cartage to Stanthorpe and Warwick. Is the NSW Government considering the implication of this information for perhaps another 38 towns/townships in the State?


In an ABC program aired on 23rd July under the title ‘Country Towns approach Day Zero’, the populations of Walcha, Tenterfield, Cobar, Naromine, Nyngan and Stanthorpe received special mention. The Southern Downs Regional Council, Queensland, adjoining Tenterfield Shire, has imposed Critical Water Restrictions on Stanthorpe and Warwick limiting water use to 120 L/p/d. For the Southern Downs region, it is estimated water cartage will accrue monthly costs between $0.5 and $1.5 million depending upon cartage distances. With a worsening water situation in southern Queensland and north/central New South Wales, there is an increasing bio-security risk as cattle transport washing stations close down.


Despite the severity of the NSW water shortage, bureaucratic process is being maintained. The Mayor and CEO of Tenterfield Shire met with the Minister for Water, the Hon, Melinda Pavey, early in 2019, seeking urgent assistance for Tenterfield’s developing water shortage. Resulting from this meeting, the Cross Border Commissioner and the Regional Supply Coordinator arranged a meeting on the 4th June 2019 with representatives from the Department of Industry-Water to discuss funding mechanisms, water bore drilling, expenditure approvals, time lines for delivery and accountability for program delivery. This has enabled consultant hydrologists to commence work.

At a recent meeting of the Border Region Organisation of Councils, the term ‘natural disaster’ was used to describe the regional situation. The NSW Minister for Water was reluctant to use this language as tourists might misinterpret the term!

Of the bigger picture, the NSW Government has spent $650 million on water infrastructure during the past eighteen months. In addition, the Federal Government has spent $1.3 billion on water resource projects across Australia via the National Water Infrastructure Fund. In a report dated 3rd July 2019, the only expenditure relevant to NSW water security was a Department of Industry unidentified commitment for $75 million.


With water reserves in the Tenterfield dam set to disappear within a year, water security for the township appears to rest on the Shirley Park bore producing a mega litre of water on alternate days and a proposed drilling program directed by consultant hydrologists. This investigation will take several months before sustainable supplies can be confirmed. If an emergency supply becomes necessary, then water from the Apex Park bore might be released. However, trucking in water will probably eventuate as stated in the Council document. When the drought breaks the long-term problem remains. This is a South East Australian problem, not one for a rural township.


  • Tenterfield Star. 19 February 2019. Dam Levels.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. 2019. Dam Safety Upgrade.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. March 2019. Drought Management Plan.
  • ABC North, 9 March 2019. Tenterfield Water Crisis.
  • Tenterfield Star. 2 April 2019. The Apex Bore.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. 17 April 2019. Level 4.5 Restrictions.
  • Tenterfield Star. 21 May 2019. Bore shores up Water Supply.
  • NW Daily Leader. 4 June 2019. Water Restrictions.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. June 2019. Update on Water Situation.
  • ABC News. 23 July 2019. Country Towns approach Day Zero.
  • Daily Leader. 30 July 2019. Desalination Plant at Shirley Park Bore.
  • Tenterfield Shire Council. August 2019. Water Supply and Restrictions.

JOHN HUGH HILL    Current Affairs Flash Points

Orange Water Supply July 2019

KL=1000L,  ML=1,000,000L  GL=1,000,000,000L

The Problem

The population of Orange is about 40,000 (2018) and is increasing by 1% a year. Working on historical summer and winter water consumption (table below) daily usage per person is 183 L. This computes into a daily consumption for Orange of 7.3 ML which amounts to 2.7 GL per year. Full storage capacity is about 24.5 GL but water storage is only 34.6% (July) and declining, which is about 8.5 GL. Level 5 restrictions are due to commence when water reserves fall below 35%. This deteriorating reserve situation has been progressing during the past four years, as illustrated by the records: 2016-100%, 2017-75%, 2018-50%, 2019-34.6% (June).

The Orange water supply relies on a network of small creeks as it is distant from major rivers or dam sites. Average annual rainfall is 900 mm and declining. The several water storages and facilities with capacities (GL) and current reserves (%) are:

Storage/Facility Capacity  GL Reserves  %
Suma Dam 19.8 26
Spring Creek Dam 4.5 68
Macquarie River 7.7 ML/day None
Ploughmans  Creek 1200 ML/year None
Blackmans Creek 1300 ML/year None
Water Bores Unknown Unknown
Gosling Creek Dam Recreation Reserve
Lake Canobolas Recreation Reserve

Historical water consumption litres/person/day reflects summer and winter drawdowns:

Month 2016 2017 2018 2019
March 287 285 349 229
June 170 178 170 137

Averaging the 2019 seasonal variations, consumption is 183 L/p/d or 2.7 GL/year against a declining reserve of 8.5 GL. This may permit consumption until early 2021. Because no data has been sighted for distribution loss, agricultural entitlement, evaporation or black (undrinkable) water,  the reserve will be less than quoted.

Water Resources and Facilities

The Orange City Council has generated several reserves and collection facilities, however, there is no large storage to draw upon. Declining water reserves might possibly be augmented by capricious rainfall cells or from bores into a basalt aquifer. Details are:

Suma Dam or Suma Park Reservoir

The dam is located 4 km east of Orange. It was constructed in 1962 with a capacity of 17.3 GL and was later upgraded in 2016 with a capacity of 19.8 GL for a cost of $18 million. By June 2019, storage had declined to 5.2 GL – 28% capacity. Suma dam replaced the aging Spring Creek reservoir.

Spring Creek Reservoir

This is a minor embankment dam located 2 km east of Orange. It was completed in 1931 with a capacity of 4.7 GL. By June 2019, storage had declined to 3.2 GL – 68% capacity and falling.

Macquarie River Pipeline

The 39 km pipeline was completed in 2016 by Geotechnical Engineering Ltd at a cost of $26 million. The facility is designed to transfer water to the Suma dam using pumps delivering 7.7ML/day. In 2017, the Macquarie river flowed at a modest 506 ML/day; for a short time discharge into the dam was 13.4 ML/day. Since early 2019 the water level has been too low for the pumps to operate.

Ploughmans Creek Water Harvesting

This facility in the Orange urban area directs 10-20% of storm water run-off to holding wetlands from where it is pumped to the Suma dam. The installation was constructed in 2009 for a project cost of $4 million. This project was a new initiative and a national first for augmenting water supply. Since commissioning, results have been disappointing and for the year ending June 2019 off-take was only 4.6 ML.

Blackmans Creek Water Harvesting

This facility collects urban run-off for storage in a 2000 ML wetland before transfer to Suma dam. It was completed in 2009 for $5 million. Run off was anticipated to be 1300 ML/year, however for the first six months of operation, only 260 ML was obtained.

Water Bores

There is extensive use of bore water for domestic and agricultural purposes but records have not been sighted. Orange City Council indicated that NSW Water is the authority to approach, information is awaited. The water source is fractured Tertiary basalt that underlies Orange; water is also obtained from the Macquarie alluvials. NSW Water states ground water in the Orange region is of good quality and extraction rates are sustainable but there are signs of extraction stress about the urban area.

In 2011, the Council applied to NSW Water to supplement the urban supply by extraction from the basalt aquifer; an extraction licence has apparently been granted with the proviso that existing users and entitlements will not be affected.

Two issues require clarification:

  • There appears to be no accounting for bore water in the consumption figures; this implies domestic usage is higher than stated.
  • Storage reserves could be higher if ground water was included.

Gosling Creek Dam

This is an embankment dam 4km south of Orange. It was constructed in 1890 with a capacity of 0.4 GL. It was decommissioned in 1962 with the opening of the Suma dam. In 2007 Cadia Mine was granted use of this resource for mining purposes.

Lake Canobolas, formerly Meadow Creek Dam

The Meadow Creek dam, 10km south of Orange, was constructed in 1918 with a capacity of 4.5 GL. The dam was decommissioned in 1962 and renamed Lake Canobolas. It is now within a recreation reserve with water transferred from the Suma dam to maintain water level. The name originates from Wiradjuri language. cona-shoulder and booloo-two which relate to the two peaks of Mt Canobolas.

Future Water Supplies

The backdrop to future water supplies for Orange is a meeting in February 2019 between Central West mayors of Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo with Government representatives and the recent installation of desalination plants in Walgett and Bourke to treat salty bore water. The looming water shortage in NSW is becoming a National issue.

The Orange urban area is located in the headwaters of a river system with no extensive catchments upstream and no nearby large dam sites available. The current water security plan is to increase local storage capacity by 20 GL by implementing the following actions:

  • Drill five bores into the fractured basalt aquifer near the Macquarie river; extraction tests will determine the degree of water security.
  • In and around the urban area, use seven existing and yet to be drilled holes to extract water from the basalt aquifer and pump it to the Suma dam.
  • Pump storm water from the urban area via a borehole array into Tertiary basalt and Palaeozoic aquifers to serve as a storage and retrieval system.
  • Drill a number of bores designed to produce 1 ML/day for discharge into the Suma dam.
  • Investigate a future dam site at Lake Rolands,  45km south of Orange.
  • Investigate storage potential in adjacent valleys.


A second and longer term backdrop to already identified water shortage, is a 15% decline in rainfall over south-east Australia which has been confirmed by a consequent slow drying out of the landscape.

The proposed initiatives for short-term water security by extraction from Tertiary and Palaeozoic aquifers must be finite particularly with declining rainfall. It is relevant to note that for Australia, water from aquifers constitute 17% of accessible water and 30% of consumption. On current trend, both figures will increase with only one predictable result. The move toward larger storage dams is logical but construction will be to the detriment of echo systems and agriculture downstream.

Part of a solution will be to evaluate the Israeli system of water management and to consider the transfer of water from East Coast rivers. There are mutterings of extracting water vapour from the air, carried out on a large scale might precipitate unintended consequences.

The Last Drop

With quoted declining water reserves of 8.5 GL and an annual consumption of 2.7 GL, not including distribution losses and undrinkable anoxic water, there appears to be barely a two-year supply – this is against a trend of declining rainfall and increasing temperature.

The short-term solution proposes water bores in and around the urban area but this is not a long-term solution. NSW Water has observed there are signs of extraction stress in the basalt aquifer. The projected Rolands dam site cannot be part of the short-term solution.

The Orange water shortage is part of a State-wide problem that is part of an emerging National problem. Individual solutions may vary but a National management program will be required.


  • Orange City Council, 3 May ’05, Lake Canobolas Sanctuary
  • Orange City C0uncil,3 Dec ’07, Spring Creek Reservoir
  • Geologyse PL, Nov. ‘09, Ploughmans Creek Storm Water Scheme
  • National Reserves Commission, Nov. ’10,  Central West Ground Water
  • Orange City Council, 2010, Storm Water Harvesting
  • Orange City Council, 2011, Gosling Creek Reserve
  • Dept. Primary Industry, 2012, Young Granite Ground Water Source
  • Central Western Daily, April ’13, Our Most Precious Reserve
  • Orange City Council, June ’16, Hydrology Monitoring Program
  • WIN News, 6 July  ’16, Suma Park Dam
  • Geotechnical Engineering, 2016, Suma Park Dam Upgrade
  • Orange City Council,  7 July  ’16, Managed Aquifer Reserve
  • Earth First, 9 March ’18,  Ground Water Australia Week
  • Clear Water, June ’18, Orange Storm Water
  • Central Western Daily,  3 April ’19, Level 4 Restrictions
  • Central Western Daily, 30 June ’19, Orange Water Supplies

John Hugh Hill   Current Affairs Flashpoints

Tamworth Water Supply June 2019

(KL=1000 L, ML=1,000,000 L, GL=1,000,000,000 L)

The Problem

The population of Tamworth, NSW, and environs number some 45,000. Currently the region is experiencing a prolonged drought. In addition, the Bureau of Meteorology forecast El Niño conditions could continue into 2020. To conserve water Stage 3 restrictions are in place. The Tamworth water supply is principally derived from two dams, now at critically low levels. The Dungowan dam is at 27% capacity – 1.6 GL and the Chaffey dam at 24% capacity – 25 GL.

With no consistent rain forecast the situation is serious since there appears to be approximately a little over a one-year supply. It is unknown if the quoted capacity has taken into account dead water which limits irrigation and also at a lower depth deep undrinkable water. The Tamworth Regional Council is casting around to augment declining reserves.

The Situation

Details on dams supplying water to Tamworth are:

  • Dungowan dam – located 50 km south east of Tamworth – it was built in 1958 with a 6.3 GL capacity. By mid-2014 water supply reserves had declined to 1.6 GL. There are plans to increase capacity to 22.5 GL but progress stalled when feasibility estimates rose to $440 million from an original budget of $150 million.
  • Chaffey dam – located 45 km south east of Tamworth – it was opened in 1971 with a 62.8 GL capacity. This was increased to 100.6 GL capacity in 2014. By mid-2019 water supply reserves had fallen to 25 GL. In 2017 there was a proposal to increase capacity to 120 GL but there is no evidence of progress.

The planned consumption proposed by Tamworth Regional Council for 2018-19 and the projected short fall for 2019-20, in giga litres, is summarised:

  • Essential Supplies                    8.2
  • Reserve for 2019-20               14.0
  • General Security                       4.5
  • Horticulture &Disinfection       1.9
  • Evaporation & Operation         5.0

TOTAL                                   33.6

  • Available Resources               30.6
  • Projected Shortfall                    3.0

Declining dam reserves of 25.0 plus 1.6 ie 26.6 represents either slippage or
a make good of 4.0 GL from other sources. The estimates indicate Tamworth
may be out of water by mid-2020.

The Chaffey dam provides water to the agricultural industry. There are around 192 irrigation licences with entitlements to 48.3 GL per year along 590 km of the Peel River drainage system. Production includes cotton, wheat, lucerne, vegetables, trees, pasture, sheep and cattle. Entitlements have been reduced to 38% – 18 GL.

At current low dam levels two factors should be considered:

  • The lower water layers may become undrinkable. A NSW Government report found the lower levels of the Warragamba dam to be undrinkable – on this basis the remaining water in Chaffey dam might be suspect.
  • Depending upon the elevation of the penstocks a proportion of the current low reserves in Chaffey dam could become unavailable to agriculture.

Proposals for Water Security

The Tamworth Regional Council has proposed several measures to augment and provide a more reliable long-term water supply, these are:

  • Construct a 62 km pipeline to the Keepit dam north-west of Tamworth. This dam was designed to contain 425 GL but due to the drought and drawdown the dam is at 0.4% capacity – 1.7 GL – this is the lowest level since the drought of 1974. With demands from the Namoi region and the reported long term decrease in rainfall in south east Australia this plan could be ‘dead in the water’.
  • Increase the capacity of the Dungowan dam from 6 GL to 25 GL. Owing to the estimated construction cost of $440 million this project may remain shelved unless the Commonwealth Government intervenes.
  • Construct a 10-15 GL storage adjacent to the Peel river upstream from Tamworth. With increasing evaporation (1.8 m/year at Dubbo) shallow storage could be ineffective.
  • Reopening the Peel river (Paradise) Drift Wells. These wells penetrate the Peel river alluvials. They provided water for Tamworth until the 1950s. Pumping tests between 1977-1980 produced a maximum of 12 ML per day and an equilibrium output of 7 ML per day. Planned pumping tests will attempt to achieve a consistent 10 ML per day over a six months trial. Rehabilitation costs are estimated at $2.25 million which will be funded by the NSW Emergency Drought Relief Fund. This initiative is not a solution, it can only augment a reliable supply. The problem facing the Drift Wells is the combination of prolonged and more frequent droughts combined with a climate induced declining rainfall. River systems under stress will no longer be able to recharge the flood plain alluvials.
  • Water bores are planned for alluvials 26 km down stream from Tamworth. Similar limitations to those for the Drift Wells apply.


Impediments to the near term resolution for the Tamworth water supply are:

  • Water resources from alluvials can only augment, not replace, storage from large dams.
  • There is no guarantee rain will recharge the dams within the next twelve months.
  • The past two decades have witnessed a 15% decrease in annual rainfall across south eastern Australia resulting in an almost imperceptible decline in surface run off, declining river flow and a slow drying out of soils and alluvials.
  • Longer hotter summers will increase evaporation from water storage while livestock and human consumption will increase.
  • Infrastructure funding of massive water storage will become an increasing problem as the changing climate creates water shortages across south east Australia.

The above is not just a Tamworth problem, or a New South Wales problem –it is an Australian problem. Climate trends and modelling predictions indicate the tropical north will become wetter while the not so temperate south will become hotter, drier and subject to damaging rain cells.

To secure future reliable water supplies major infrastructure projects will have to be considered:

  • The construction of very large dams since the Chaffey and Keepit dams and others in NSW are no longer fit for purpose. An example of a water storage capable of providing increased security is the Argyle dam, WA, capacity 10,705 GL. Any dam location would require an extensive distribution system to service agriculture and population centres.
  • Construction of pipelines from eastward flowing rivers of New South Wales and Queensland into central New South Wales.
  • Deep drilling at depths beyond the near surface aquifers to tap into porous limestone, basalt and other permeable formations. This water might be at elevated temperature and contain chemical contaminants.
  • By mid-2020 the Tamworth water supply will be essentially exhausted and water may have to be bought in by rail noting however, that the principal Sydney supply, Warragamba dam, is at 40% capacity and declining.


Tamworth is facing a serious water shortage, which by Tamworth Regional Council estimates will result in a shortfall during 2019-2020 of about 3 GL. Rainfall might alleviate this situation in the short term, it cannot solve it. The proposed water from bores into alluvial sediments, deep bores or pipelines can only augment dwindling supplies, they cannot replace large storages.  The observed ‘drying out’ of south eastern Australia will play out in declining river flows and water deficient alluvials.

The solution to ensuring water security will involve feasibility into major infrastructure projects. This is not a Tamworth problem, this is a problem involving south-east Australia.


News Ltd., 2006, Sydney’s deep water supply undrinkableWater Industry Assoc. of Aust., 3 April 2009, Paradise Drift Wells, Third Report.Tamworth Regional Council. October. 2018, Water and Dam Information.Northern Daily Leader, 6 March 2019, Dungowan Dam.NSW Government, 8 March 2019, Peel Valley Water Allocation Statement.Water NSW, 10 June 2019, Regional Water Availability Report.Tamworth Council, 2019, Long term options for bulk water.


Current Affairs Flash Points


Description: Macintosh HD:Users:johnhill:Desktop:drought-statement-rainfall-deficit-data.gif

Water Security in NSW May 2019


Recent State Government announcements have expressed concern over potable water supplies for Cobar, Tenterfield, Orange, Tamworth and Guyra. Collectively, this water shortage is trending towards an unsustainable situation based on the current distribution system and changing rainfall patterns.

Global Perspective

To place this increasingly serious water supply situation into a wider context, reference is made to ‘State of Climate 2018’ by the Bureau of Meteorology. Summarised below are facts relating to the global trends:

  • Carbon dioxide concentrations have now risen above 405 ppm and are increasing at more than 2.5 ppm per year.
  • The addition of methane and nitrous oxide raises the carbon equivalent concentrations to 500 ppm.
  • Emissions from fossil fuels are still rising.
  • Global sea level has risen by 20-25 centimetres since 1880, the rate is increasing due to increasing melt rates from Antarctica and Greenland.
  • Ocean waters are becoming increasingly acidic.

The Australian Picture

The global changes are now reflected in irascible weather patterns over south-east Australia. This concerning situation has prompted a report by NSW Local Land Services titled ‘Climate Change in Central West New South Wales’. Principal points in this report are:

  • Australia’s climate has warmed by 1°C since 1910.
  • The frequency of extreme weather events has increased.
  • Nine of the ten warmest years on record have occurred since 1998.
  • Over south eastern Australia, autumn and winter rainfall has mostly been below average since 1990, leading to imperceptible ‘drying out’ and declining river flow.
  • Extreme fire weather has increased over the past fifteen years with wild fires increasing in intensity and unpredictability.

NSW Central West Region

Based on historical trends modelling for the Central West and adjacent region indicates:

  • In addition to the 1°C rise, temperature will increase by 0.7°C by 2030 and by 2.1°C by 2070.
  • Rising overnight summer temperatures will cause increasing discomfort. Energy demands, costs and greenhouse gas emissions will increase with air conditioner use.
  • Heat wave conditions will substantially increase above 35°C towards 2030 by an extra 10-20 days while, by 2070, there will be an extra 30-40 days around or exceeding 45°C.
  • Rising livestock and native fauna loss is to be expected due to a reduction in water resources.
  •  There has been a 15% decline in average autumn and winter rainfall over south east Australia, however, the relationship to the anthropogenic era has not yet been established. (BOM/CSIRO 2014)
  • Rainfall-modelling forecasts there will be a slight increase in spring rainfall but an increase in summer/autumn rainfall will be due to storm cells causing hail, wind and flash flood damage.
  • Annual evaporation, currently 1.8 meters at Dubbo, will increase across the region.
  • With increased temperatures, evapotranspiration and changing rainfall patterns, there has been a global trend of landscape drying. Anecdotal hearsay is that landscape drying is occurring over much of New South Wales.

Drought and Water Security in New South Wales.

The Department of Primary Industry has defined the current drought as the most severe on record with the Central West, Far West and North West regions the worst affected. These conditions extend into Queensland. The severity can be judged by the extremely low valley storage levels. Readings in May 2019 were Lower Darling – 1%, Namoi – 2%, Border Rivers – 7%, Gwydir – 10% and Macquarie – 12%.

The prognosis is that El Niño conditions are set to continue. With this information, the water resources and the long-term viability, at this stage, for five New South Wales towns, aggregating some 85,000 people, is a concerning social issue. Over the coming period each town, Cobar, Tenterfield, Orange, Tamworth and Guyra will be discussed with reference to current and future water storage, river potential, borehole water and pipeline delivery. The backdrop is the slow drying of the landscape.

Agricultural Adjustment

Trends indicate current weather patterns will intensify and morph into a more violent drier climate. Historical farming practice in New South Wales will have to adjust. The drip irrigation system developed by Israel may be applicable with modification to Australia’s drying landscape: markets to Asia may be generated by this change. Cereal production will decline but as the dry hot Queensland climate moves south into New South Wales, Brahmans will tend to replace current cattle breeds.

Drought hits Australian Wheat Supplies

See illustration next page (Geopolitical Futures, 24 May 2019)

Note declining wheat area and production – drought or climate change?

Source – Geopolitical Futures  24 May 2019

Current Affairs Flashpoints:






The image is a snapshot of the use-by-date of Australia’s Power Stations – in other words, the fiftieth year and the final period of their economic life.  For example, Lidell NSW, will reach this critical situation in 2021-2022. The Power Station has been in the news as  the Government has requested that this ageing behemoth continue electricity generation to slow down Australia’s looming power crisis. The image clearly illustrates Australia’s declining dispatchable power in the coming decades. The need for dispatchable energy needs to be augmented by new hydro, coal or gas power stations.

From the early 1990s, a succession of Liberal and Labor governments have failed the Australian people by ignoring this unfolding energy crisis.  Within our political elite there is a culture of evading responsibility, best illustrated with politicians consistently blaming the other Party for the current situation. The Three Year cycle impedes forward thinking.

To solve the urgent problem of the declining power supply in south-eastern Australia, (NT and WA excluded), the government has proposed a National Energy Guarantee that has yet to be unconditionally approved by the States and the Labor Party.  A sticking point is that the States are running their own emission reduction programs and have raised the concept of ‘additionality’ whereby they be credited with lowering emissions within the 26% envelope set by the Federal Government; this the Government refuses to do. Tasmania has opted out as the State Government wants no part of mainland high energy prices. Any Parliamentary legislation must be supported by both political Parties otherwise Australia’s long term energy policy remains in chaos.

In October 2017, the Government announced a new National Energy Policy. The Government has scrapped the Clean Energy Target proposed by the Chief Scientist, Dr Finkel, and has replaced it by the National Energy Guarantee for ideological reasons. The Clean Energy Target provided an incentive for new low emission forms of energy generation to enter the market. The National Energy Guarantee, unfortunately, entrenches the power of the big three retailers, AGL, Origin Energy and Energy Australia.

So, summarising the National Energy Guarantee:

  • The Government will scrap the Clean Energy Target based on science and will not extend the Renewable Energy Target beyond 2020. The Renewable Energy Target was intended to encourage electricity generation from renewable resources to meet a 20% share in the national power supply by 2020.
  • The Government will attempt to legislate a National Energy Guarantee which requires retailers to meet two targets:
  1.  The Reliability Guarantee.  This requires retailers to supply electricity from dispatchable sources which including batteries, hydro, gas and coal.
  2.  The Emissions Guarantee.  Retailers will be given targets to drive down the power sector’s green house gas emissions by 26% of 2005 levels by 2030. This is consistent with commitments made at the 2015 Paris Climate Treaty.

By 2030, the Government forecasts {hopes) that 28%–36%  of electricity generation will be from renewables of which 24% will be from wind/solar and by inference 8% from dispatchable pumped hydro, which explains why Snowy 2 has recently splashed onto media pages. Again, by inference, 68% of energy must still come  from coal/gas-fired power stations, hence the Government’s attempt to seduce AGL over Lidell. In a bizarre twist, a Hong Kong company, Chow Toi Fook Enterprises, has expressed an interest in Lidell, not for energy production but for its ‘poles and wires’, worth billions.

Regarding solar power development, Australia lags well behind European nations who have a fraction of sunlight hours that Australia wastes. Why?

Solar Power

The Snowy 2 pumped hydro scheme has become a common phrase in recent months; the Government is actively considering a major new power generator in the Snowy Mountains. It is hoped this facility will assist in providing the 8% of dispatchable power for the National Energy Guarantee plan within a decade. The objective is to supply power to 50,000 homes. A $29 million feasibility study has been completed which indicates a construction cost round $4 billion and transmission costs to New South Wales and Victoria of $2 billion. Engineering studies suggest that, as configured, it will increase electricity demand, increase carbon dioxide emissions and in fact, may require coal to generate the water supply. The project could not operate in a normal commercial market as it may not produce an acceptable rate of return and would require government subsidy. (Cost Blow out. New Economy, 21 Dec, 2017: The Guardian, 20 Dec 2017 )

The National Energy Guarantee will only apply to members of the National Energy Market. This excludes WA and NT since there are no transmission lines to the Eastern States. Also, Tasmania  has withdrawn as there is no wish to be lumbered with mainland high power prices. Thus, from 2020, these markets might not be subject to a Federal emissions reduction policy.

The Government has further indicated that when (if) COAG approves the National Energy Guarantee, (meeting on  20 April 2018) the average Australian household will save between $110-$115 per year between 2020 and 2030 – equivalent to   thirty three coffees or four smashed avocado breakfasts. (The Conversation, October 2017)
Post Script: the States will continue towards an Agreement.

Adding to this largess, the Shadow Minister for Energy, Mark Butler, at a media address on 8 February, 2018 stated the National Energy Market will increase electricity prices by $430 in NSW and $250 in  Victoria from 2019 due to Government inability to address the gas supply crisis. Large reserves are locked up in both States for political reasons.  The question may now be ventured – are the  States, ossified in1901, now approaching their use by date?

COAL SEAM GAS CRISIS IN NSW (Australian Mining – Economic Scenario

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) has stated “Australia’s energy resources have reduced to the extent that there is heightened risk of significant unserviced energy requirement  over the next ten years compared with recent levels. The age of the coal-generation fleet is expected to result in the closure of plant over the next decade”. In plebeian speak, that is ‘Houston we have a real problem” which will lead to a surge in the birthrate. In plain English, in the next ten years there will be an electricity shortage and the lights will go out.

Despite the three-year advice required before closure recommended by the Chief Scientist, feasibility, planning approvals and construction will take a decade but large-scale renewable resources will take less time to bring on stream. The problem now for investors is that technology is improving and costs are reducing so rapidly that investors will be reluctant to make long-term strategic decisions on power generation. Under the Reliability Guarantee, generators/retailers may try to drive their equipment past use-by-date to meet near-term obligations rather than embarking on new generator capacity – this will favour existing generator-mix without improving it.

Also, overly risk-averse reliability guarantees may lead to excessive obligations placed on retailers and thus drive up costs for consumers. Similarly, uncertainty in demand caused by unforeseen events, (for example – a smelter closure), will encourage retailers to write  short-term contracts.

On an optimistic note, the imposition of a Reliability Guarantee may have the potential to open new markets powered by renewables that can dispatch on demand.

Under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, Australia committed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 26% below 2005 levels by 2030. The scientifically generated Finkel Climate Report recommended a 42%  reduction. The Government has opted for an ideological target which is politically acceptable but not in the national interest.

Emission data for Australia, after Origin Energy are:

  • 2005 emission level – 610 Mt carbon-dioxide equivalent
  • 2017 emission level – 550 Mt
  • 26% of 2005 level of 610Mt –159 Mt
  • Australia’s reduction of 2017 level – 610-159 = 451Mt
  • Australia must reduce 2017 level by 550-451 = 99 Mt
  • 2017 level must therefore be reduced to 451 Mt by 2030
  • Australia must therefore reduce emissions by 99 Mt by 2030

The Emissions Guarantee generates two questions;

  1.  What is the percentage of the portfolio that must come from renewable resources?
  2.  Should the portfolio as a whole have a carbon intensity below an agreed threshold assigned to an energy production company?

Either way, the Emissions Guarantee must encourage investment in renewables. The Emissions Guarantee will be assisted by:

  • Reducing fossil fuel generation; however, existing generators will soon be closing down anyway, around the time of their 50 year use-by-date.
  • Increasing output from lower emission renewable resources and reducing emissions from fossil fuel generators – but, the double whammy is that renewables must replace ailing generators while, at the same time, providing additional sustainable energy above the existing fossil fuel generators.The magnitude of the current energy replacement problem in Australia is reflected in the energy production from various sources:
  1.  86%    fossil fuels –  coal and gas
  2.   7%      renewables –  wind and solar
  3.   7%       hydro

The irony of this situation is that renewable projects, either existing, under construction or planned, are expected to meet the Renewable Energy Target of 20% of the National Energy output by 2020, and contribute about 23% of generated output to the National Energy Market. This therefore requires 77% from the fossil fuel generators.
From the data above this will not happen.
(National Energy Guarantee, PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Oct,2017)

PriceWaterhouseCoopers have concluded the rationale for the National Energy Guarantee is sound. However, the guarantee thresholds need to be defined so that investors can assess commercial impacts of the legislation. With the  imposition of more regulations the main energy retailers can act as a barrier to new entrants into the market.

In a radio interview on 12 April 2018, the Shadow Minister for Energy indicated that there are design flaws in the proposed National Energy Guarantee which the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission wish to see amended. Currently, the three big retailers, AGL, Energy Australia and Origin Energy, will obtain too much power causing power prices to rise. The big three will effectively act as ‘gate keepers’ that will keep new investors out. This will disrupt contract markets which tend to stabilise power prices. There are also competition and transparency issues which will harm the economy if not fixed.

The position with Labor, should it win office, is that the reduction target for emissions will rise from 26% to 42% by 2030 in line with the Finkel Climate Review. This will, hopefully,  ensure global warming does not rise above 2ºC.

On the national energy front, Australia is facing three power supply problems that have combined to produce a ‘perfect storm’.

  1.  As early as 2000, Australian politicians should have considered the use-by-dates of the nation’s coal-fired power stations and now it is too late. Australia’s dispatchable energy within a decade now runs the risk of decreasing by one third unless the power stations are flogged to death. Sustainable energy, on current progress,  is presently 7- 8% and the industry will be hard pressed to make up the short fall.
  2.  The domestic gas industry is in crisis. Victoria and New South Wales have abundant gas reserves but State Governments have refused to grant extraction permits. The Northern Territory has just lifted its embargo. The Australian Government has effectively excluded citizens from using Australian gas before export to east Asia.


3. The 2015 Paris Climate Conference has forced Australia into a commitment to reduce emissions to 26% below its 2005 levels. This is a problem due to Government inertia and little positive encouragement to industry.




Voices within Government once proclaimed  ”COAL IS KING”.

(A writ requiring a person under arrest to be brought
before a judge).

Current Affairs Flash Points

References                                                                                                                    Clean Energy Regulator, Australian Government                                Origin Energy, 22June 2015, Energy Distribution                              National Energy Guarantee, Oct. 2017, PriceWaterhouseCoopers      National Energy Guarantee, 17Oct, 2017, TheConversation Australian Energy, 20 Dec 2017, The Guardian                                    Snowy 2 Cost Blowout, 21 Dec, 2017, New Economy                Australian Energy, 21 Dec 2017, Aust. Renewable Energy Agency National Energy Markets, 5 Feb 2018, Shadow Energy Minister National Energy Guarantee, 12 April 2018, Shadow Energy Minister





Sea Temperatures

PREAMBLE                                                                                                                                     In Hertford, Hereford and Hampshire, Hurricanes hardly ever happen. (Pygmalion)

Perhaps not any more – this was the prevailing belief in 1913 when Mother Earth was not given to tantrums. One hundred years later, Ghia, that ocean in the sky, and Posieden have decided to give Homo sapiens stultus a very stern warning which should be well heeded by those of our species on the north-east coastal regions of Australia.                                                                                                                           Two August weather disasters and four other major weather events are currently occurring round the globe.  The root cause of these problems is the warming of the oceans due to the blanketing affect of greenhouse gas. These events have morphed into catastrophes. Hurricane Irma, roaring out of the Atlantic, is about to add to the woes of the southern United States. In early September, three hurricanes are now high-tailing across the Atlantic Ocean through the Carribean islands towards southern United States.                          The two disasterous weather events are the monsoon in the north-east of the Indian sub-continent and hurricane Harvey that has devastated the Houston region adjacent to the Gulf of Mexico.. The strange situation is that we have heard loud and clear that ‘Houston has a problem’ but very little about the far more terrible event on the Indian sub-continent.

THE INDIAN MONSOON                                                                                      North-west India, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, covering an area of 720,000 sq. km. (NSW 809,000 sq. km.), has been devastated. An arc of the sub-continent some 1800 km in length  has been flooded and rendered virtually uninhabitable. The monsoon has affected more than 50 million people, deaths exceed 2000, more than 90,000 homes have been destroyed in Nepal and tens of thousands are affected by cholera and other water-born diseases. About 50% of Uttar Pradesh and 40% of Bangladesh (44,000 sq. km.) are flooded. Onto this devastated country have been forced around 270,000 Rohingya refugees while Myanmar maintains its genocide of this Muslim group. The monsoon originated in the warmed waters of the Bay of Bengal. Simultaneously the Mumbai region has been devastated by floods caused by 468 mm of rain in twelve hours which originated from the warmed waters of the Arabian Sea. This has been the heaviest rainfall event in over twenty years.


Indian Floodind
N E INDIAN MONSOON, FLOODED AREA.. (Relief Web. 29 August)

HURRICANE HARVEY                                                                                                By contrast, hurricane Harvey originated in the warmed waters of the Gulf of Mexico and exploded onto the Houston region where it  dumped 127 mm of rain. Comparative rainfall figures with the disastrous Hurricane Katrina (2006) are instructive; Katrina only unleashed 30 trillion litres while Harvey dumped 121 trillion litres on the regional swamp land. The hurricane flooded about 30,000 sq km along 800 km of country. It has significantly been classified as ‘one in a thousand year flood’.  30,000 to 40,000 homes have been destroyed and around 50,000 people are in shelters. (CNN, VOX, 3 September) In terms of comparative numbers, hurricane Harvey barely rates when compared to the social and material devastation generated by the Indian monsoon.                                                                     The economic significance of hurricane Harvey is that it has shut down roughly 11% of US refining capacity and 25% of US oil production which will put temporary upward pressure on global energy prices. These economic ramifications for the fragile Saudi economy and the stressed Russian economy are important and could lead to unwanted assertiveness. (Geopolitical Futures 30 August)

Cyclone Harvey

ATLANTIC HURRICANES                                                                                           In early September, three hurricanes, Katia, Jose and Irma, gestated in the North Atlantic equatorial waters. Hurricane Irma (Category 5) has already established records as the most powerful storm ever recorded with wind speeds around 300 km/hr and it is now causing devastation in Florida. It is also an unusual omen that it has roared out of the Atlantic, not the Gulf of Mexico. This is troubling since it suggests the ocean waters are heating up as fast as the shallow gulf waters. Carribean islands, over a path 200 km wide, have been devasted. The significance of Irma, Jose and Katia are their frequency and intensity so soon after hurricane Harvey. This fact has serious implications for north-eastern Australia’s coastal communities and infrastructure. (VOX  7 September)


CHINA                                                                                                                                Two typhoons have have hit the Chinese  mainland contemporaneously with the weather events in the north-eastern Indian region and the southern United States.  Hong Kong has been lashed by typhoon Hato and Macau by typhoon Pakar. The significance for all these events is they are occurring at the end of a warming northern hemisphere summer.

CLIMATE SCIENCE                                                                                                      The message coming from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is that hurricanes, typhoons and monsoons will increase in intensity and frequency because ocean waters are rising above historic averages due to atmospheric green house gases blanketing the planet and thus not permitting heat loss from the oceans. A feature of recent events is for the low preasure systems to remain stationary rather than moving inland and becoming rain depressions, which means flooding will become more catastrophic. (The Atlantic Magasine – Science)
It is concerning to note that even if carbon dioxide input into the atmosphere ceased today, upward trends would continue for over one hundred years. “After stabilisation of the carbon dioxide and other green house gases, surface air temperature will rise by a few tenths of a degree per century for a century or more. Sea level will rise over many centuries – it has already risen 20cm since the early 1900s due to volume increase from warming and contribution from Antarctic and Greenland ice melt. The slow transfer of heat to the ocean will continue over generations before stabilisation will commence.” (Climate Change, Synthesis Report, International Panel on Climate Change, 2001)

Air Temp

CYCLONE DEBBIE – A PORTENT                                                                  What has all this to do with cyclone Debbie in March 2017? A great deal, in fact; in the long run, the social and economic viability of coastal Australia will be seriously affected by summer cyclone activity.           Cyclone Debbie, at the end of the 2017 southern summer, has been branded as the deadliest event since cyclone Tracy in 1974, 43 years ago. Significantly, as with the preceding weather events overseas, cyclone Debbie has been described as unusually ferocious and was associated with heavier than usual rainfall. It cut a swathe of destruction over an area approximating to 450,000 sq km (1400 x 300 km). Rainfall records for north-eastern New South Wales were broken – 900 mm. in 48 hours was unprecedented. (The Conversation, Huffington Post, 31 March}                                                                     Psychologists have warned on the emotional impact among the affected population: people have been identified who have had to rebuild homes or business at least twice in the last few years due to cyclone activity. In the Tweed Heads-Lismore region, more than 11,000 have been made homeless, thousands of homes have been destroyed and there have been several deaths. Twenty-two Queensland coal mines curtailed production involving a $1.5 billion loss. The national economic impact is estimated to exceed $2 billion and will be a drag on first-half economic growth; it will add to inflation. (Daily Telegraph, The Australian, 3 April)
This is not intended as a rehash of destruction: this is a warning that. on current trends, future cyclones will become more destructive.

Cyclone Debbie

POSTAMBLE                                                                                                                  This offering highlights the relevance of current trends and weather disasters to the social stability and economic viability of the north-eastern Australian region. Proof, not anecdotal evidence, confirms storms, globally, are becoming more violent and destructive. Hurricane Harvey, the Indian monsoon, hurricane Irma and cyclone Debbie have all been described as the worst events in decades. All have occurred at the end of a long hot summer. Mention has been made several times of one in one hundred year events during this period but hurricane Harvey has been classified as one in a thousand year event. ((Washington Post)  What is significant is not the raw numbers but the trends. At these intensities and frequencies this global situation is becoming an enervating battle between an enraged Ghia and Homo sapiens stultus.                                                                                                    For Australian planners, the nation’s principal exports of coal in the east and iron-ore and gas in the west will face increasing production delays. It is not rational to expect that Australia can avoid increasingly destructive cyclones. The only practical precaution will be meticulous disaster planning and ensuring the Bureau of Meteorology is sufficiently resourced to provide accurate cyclone warning.

Sea Temperature

With a final look at the warming oceans, it should be noted that the North Atlantic is cooling due to ice-melt from Greenland – a very bad sign.                                                                                                                              The Govenor of Florida has requested his citizens not to fire their weapons at cyclone Irma as it will not reduce her vitality – Homo sapiens stultus!

John Hill                                                                                                                        Current Affairs Flash Points                                                                                    

READER COMMENT                                                                                                                        1  I remain unconvinced and am disappointed to see you confuse weather and climate. I dispute the contention that storms and floods of this magnetude have never happened before and that carbon dioxide contributes to global warming. The events you refer to are not unique whenever planet Earth was warm enough and had an atmosphere and oceans.. Yes, the effects have been devastating but this is the result of increased populations in vunerable locations and continuing failure (or ability) of Governments or Communities to undertake serious mitigation.                                                                                       I do not regard CNN, Washington Post or IPCC as anything but fake news. I will stick with Benny Peiser, Joane Nova, Jenifer Marohasy and Geof Derrick. You are welcome to attach yourself to Al Gore, Tim Flannery, John Cook, Will Stephan, the Labor Party, Malcolm Turnbull  and other Green and Lefty frauds perpetrating  the huge, costly and destructive  scam on a gullible public.

2  It always amuses me how often we have once in a hundred years’ events. Personnally without wanting to appear too gloomy I think we are only seeing the  beginning of the effects of global warming. Even if efforts to reduce greenhouse gases are implemented – by no means certain – it could be all to late.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated recently – current data bases indicate no significant observed trends in global tropical cyclone frequency over the past century. The trend in numbers of major hurricanes making United States landfall has been slightly downward over the past century. The catagory 5/4 hurricanes Harvey and Irma have ended an unprecedented 12 year hurricane drought.

The Hurricane of Climate Change. Past the Tipping Point? February 2016

The Hurricane of Climate Change

Below is a significant global map with immense ramifications. Climate refugee mass migration routes can be deduced.

Warming and Yields
Estimated impact of +3*C on Crop yields by 2050. (World Resources Institute)

The Paris Climate Change Conference (COP 21), December 2015

  • Preamble
  • The Paris Conference
  • The Washup
  • ‘Social Europe’ Analysis
  • Global Warming Migration Refugees


2*C.  A number that has acquired the significance of the Golden Mean. Nothing of the sort. 2*C is an amalgam of political expediency and scientific doubt. This rootless number is derived from an estimation of global temperature calculated from ice cores over the past 100,000 years. 2*C represents an academic opinion that global temperature should not exceed the upper bound of these records. The 2*C limit is therefore a published political objective that global warming should not exceed 2*C above the global temperature at the commencement of the Industrial Revolution. It is a temperature which reflects the upper global temperatures determined from ice cores during the Holocene Period.

Based upon current observations and estimates in the science community, the 2*C limit will be breached by mid-century and perforce, international attention is being given to living in a hotter and more violent climate. The Scientific American (March 2014) published an article by Dr. Mann (N0AA) stating that by mid-2030s, based on estimated fossil fuel consumption, the critical 2*C of warming will be reached.

The merit of 2*C is it is a simple number that politicians can comprehend. A more scientific approach would be to use greenhouse gas concentrations but these are more complex. (The Economist, 10 December, 2015)

Carbon dioxide equivalent values released by NASA illustrate the increasing carbon dioxide problem swirling through Earth’s atmosphere:

  • 1880, pre-Industrial Revolution, 280 ppm
  • Safe limit for Homo sapiens and planet, 350 ppm
  • 2015, current carbon dioxide concentration, 405 ppm
  • Rate of carbon dioxide increase per year, 2 to 3 ppm
  • 2050, est. 2*C above 1880 level, 460 ppm 


CO2 concentrations
Carbon Dioxide parts per million, 1000 – 2000 AD


So, the background to the mid-December 2015 Paris Climate Conference is that global temperature above pre-Industrial Level will be breached by 2050. Very disruptive weather events are expected. The deliberations will  concentrate on living on a hotter, more violent world, not holding the global temperature below 2*C — this is a pipe dream.

The Paris Conference

The Economist (19 December) under the headline ‘Hopelessness and Determination’ summarised the principal conclusions arrived at by 195 countries.

  • The global temperature must not rise 1.5*C above pre-Industrial Levels.
  • The adopted Climate Agreement cannot prevent a global temperature rise above 1.5*C.

The Agreement (pledges) between the nations “will put the world on a course for something like 3*C of warming”. (The Economist 19 December) This elevated temperature will cause the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps to melt and over centuries sea level to rise by up to six metres.

The Nations have agreed they cannot control each others carbon dioxide emissions, and into the foreseeable future fossil fuels will still power national economies. Recognising this fact, the major international pre-occupation will be to reduce the risks of climate change and ensure populations can adjust to a hotter and more violent climate.

Elements of the final communique are:

  • More international funds will be available to to assist the poorest and most vulnerable countries.
  • A task force will assist those communities unable to adapt and require a new ‘home’.
  • Carbon pricing activities will need to be expanded.
  • Countries are to be encouraged to ‘fight and survive’. This appears to be a clear objective of Wealthy Countries who do not wish to accommodate millions of climate refugees.
  • Wealthy Countries must increase research into clean energy alternatives.
  • To slow the rate of global warming, countries must increase emission costs and accelerate industrial and domestic alternative power adaption and storage for decades to come.

Apparently not dealt with was a discussion on the nexus between sustainability, pollution and global warming.The philosophe, F Scott Fitzgerald, once uttered the sanguine comment “Things are hopeless and yet there is a determination to make them better”.

The Washup 

The Conference concluded with motherhood statements such as ‘the world stands as one’ and ‘the benefit of collective effort’. Low lying nations heaved a collective sigh of relief muttering ‘now we have a pathway to survival’. These comments sit uneasily alongside  ‘Hopelessness and Determination”. The overarching policy objectives are:

  • To keep global temperatures well below 2*C  and to make strenuous  efforts to keep temperatures below 1.5*C. This will be funded by ‘intended nationally determined contributions’. (INDCs)
  • By 2050 greenhouse gases will be removed from the atmosphere at the same rate as they are added – 43 giga tonnes. (IPCC est. 2016). There appeared to be no mention of technology or greenhouse gas dilution rates in the atmosphere.

A contentious issue administered by the UN Convention on Climate Change has now been modified. Nations were previously required to ‘act in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities’ This meant ‘rich’ countries had to reduce emissions while ‘poor’ countries were required to make no reductions. This inconsistency was well illustrated between China and America, both are the world’s largest emitters.

The Paris Agreement requires that ‘developed’ countries donate $100 billion INDCs a year by 2020 to assist ‘less developed countries’:

  • to adapt to climate change rather than attempt to slow it down,
  • donor countries will be ‘policed’ to ensure the voluntary commitments are honoured.

A critical fact is that the ‘intended nationally determined contributions’ will not keep global warming below 1.5*C because donors only sign up to what the think they can do. The Economist (15 December) considers the pledged contributions are expected to lead to global warming of 3*C. My December Blog cited a 1.5*C would be a calamity, a 2*C rise a disaster and a 2.7*C rise a catastrophe. (IPCC)

Global Warming
Global Temperature Rise from 1880 to 2016
(NOAA – Bloomberg)

Since a 1*C warming above pre-Industrial Levels has occurred, ‘to hold warming below 1.5*C would exceed the heroic’. (International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis, Vienna), its opinion is that carbon dioxide emissions would have to reduce to zero by 2060. This is impossible since new coal mines are coming on stream and ruminants are annually producing over 100 million tonnes of methane – 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide. (UNFAO)

The 1.5*C waypoint defined by the Paris Agreement is only a symbol because as a goal it is not feasible since global temperature is forecast to rise above this benchmark.

The political class appear now to be taking global warming seriously. The Paris Conference has formalised an oversight forum where national progress in carbon dioxide reduction will be monitored and pledges contributing to the $100 billion INDCs fund checked. All good housekeeping!

There appears to be two matters not dealt with:

  • Lead time estimates for global temperature decline related to a decrease in carbon dioxide emissions. Is Homo sapiens looking at tens to hundreds of years before atmospheric concentrations ofcarbon dioxide start falling?
  • Will the ‘selfish gene’ in human nature overwhelm the requirement for all to reduce emissions? Is it possible there will be significant numbers who will want others to do more while others do less? (Jarad Diamond, ‘How Societies choose to fail or survive’, UCLA)

‘Social Europe’ Analysis

 An article in Social Europe (18 February) states that commitments made by the contributing countries will not keep global warming below 2*C by 2100.

The greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) between 2010 and 2030 will actually increase from 49 Gt to 58 Gt (rounded) However, the emissions gap for a 2*C pathway is still 16 Gt. The reduction, INDCs or pledges, if implemented will still push global warming to a range of 2.7-3.0 *C.  Thus the emission gap to bring global warming below 2*C is 16 Gt. (1 Gt = 1,000,000,000 metric tonnes.) (Climate Action Tracker)

Furthermore, to bring warming below 2*C, net zero emissions must be achieved between 2055 and 2070. Net zero emissions require all GHG emissions to be buried or chemically neutralised. The technology for this process is not yet available.

Finally, the Emissions Trading System (ETS) has failed due to a collapse in the carbon price –  the intention is to revamp the system by 2020. The ‘low carbon economy’ policy has also faltered due to a low carbon price and historically low fuel prices. To reach net zero emissions by 2050 the overall system must be improved.(After COP21. The EU needs to revise Climate Policy Targets, 18 Feb.)

 Global Warming Migration Refugees 

Scientific authorities warn the searing miasma of global warming will, by mid-century, precipitate the forced migration of millions of thirsty, starving, destitute humans. The IPCC estimates by 2050 more than 200 million people will become climate migrants due to shoreline erosion, coastal flooding and agricultural disruption.

Planet earth is no stranger to climate induced migrations:

  • Fourth Century. A cold period over many decades forced Huns and Germans to invade Gaul and the Visigoths to sack Rome and destroy an Empire.
  • Eighth Century. Decades of drought in the Middle East forced Muslim hordes across North Africa and into Europe.
  • Seventeenth Century. The fifty year Little Ice Age convulsed populations into survival migrations. Between 1600 and 1700, atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations fell from 220 to 180 ppm. By 1850 the concentration had commenced its vertiguous ascent into the Anthropocene.
  • 1998. Floods in Bangladesh and the Yangtze basin required resettlement of 35 million people.

The concentration of the many serious global weather events at the commencement of the 21st Century can only be harbinger to more disruptive events.

The NASA – GISS image of global temperature between 1970 and 2004 (34 years) permits certain deductions if the temperature trends continue.


Global Temperature Change
Global Temperature Change in *C 1970 – 2004

Conclusions that may be derived from this image:

  • The high latitudes are heating rapidly triggering concerns over the melting of the Greenland ice cap which, over a century, would raise sea level by a few metres.
  • The Bering Strait region shows an extreme rate of change. Spontaneous methane fires have erupted as the tundra melts and fears have been expressed that fires could spread round the Arctic rim.
  • North-eastern United States and western Europe are still relatively cool.
  • North Africa, Middle East and Asia are indicating a worrying rate of temperature increase.
  • South America, equatorial Africa and south-east Asia (jungle covered) remain relatively cool.
  • Australia is perhaps an aberration- evidence indicates this continent is becoming markedly hotter.
  • Antarctica remains cool with a small rate of temperature change.

The above observations are based on data more than a decade old: anecdotal and scientific records indicate trends are continuing.

The IPCC has classified potential near future disaster regions with respect to drought, flood and wind storms. (Assessing the impact of Climate Change on Migration and Conflict, World Bank, 2008)

DroughtFloodWind Storms
Burkina FasoAfghanistanBangladesh

Western nations are establishing Departments of Homeland Security to protect vital infrastructure and to control mass migrations at their international borders. The White House (May 2015) has instructed the United States Homeland Security to be responsible for:

  • Protecting infrastructure and military installations from sea level rise. Since 1900 sea level has risen by 30 cm round the Statue of Liberty.
  • In Arctic regions temperature is rising fast, fish stocks and food security are at risk and require protection.
  • National security threats are considered to be mass migration, power supplies and storm surges.
  • Weapons systems must be redesigned for use in extreme weather conditions.

The image of declining crop yields with global warming reflect a sombre picture. (World Resources Institute)


Warming and Yields
Estimated impact of +3*C on Crop yields by 2050. (World Resources Institute)

From the NASA and WRI images it may be deduced:

  • Europe and Russia will attempt to deny access to millions of climate change refugees from North Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East.
  • Expanding habitable areas may form in Greenland and northern Europe but melting permafrost and methane eruptions may render northern Russia and Canada uninhabitable.
  • India and South-East Asia might become overwhelmed by Arabs, Persians and Chinese, however, declining Himalayan snow may create water shortages.
  • The jungles of Brazil, central Africa and Indonesia/Malaya may not be able to support large numbers of climate migrants.
  • New Zealand may become a ‘Mecca’ and will have to repel boarders,
  • Coastal Australia will experience an influx of Pacific Islands inhabitants’. Becoming the south aast Asian ‘food bowl’ may not be possible.
  • Patagonia, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and Macquarie Island might become bracing retreats for political, industrial and military elites.
  • Antarctica might become a new home for a privileged few.

Scenarios that could resemble the above may become apparent as the 21st Century passes the halfway mark. A critical factor for mankind is when carbon dioxide concentrations start to substantially decline. A time frame of at least 100 years should be expected.