Fifteen Years Into The Australian Permanent Drought

Fifteen years ago this month, Tim Flannery announced the Australian permanent drought.

Perth is facing the possibility of a catastrophic failure of the city’s water supply,” says Tim Flannery, director of the South Australian Museum and Australia’s most high profile scientist and ecologist. His next book, to be published in October, will feature the water crises faced by Perth and Sydney.

“I’m personally more worried about Sydney than Perth,” Flannery told me. “Where does Sydney go for more water? At least Perth has a buffer of underground water sources. Sydney doesn’t have any backup. And while Perth is forging ahead with a desalination plant, Sydney doesn’t have any major scheme in place to bolster water. It also has nowhere to put the vast infrastructure of a desalination plant.”

Climate change is working against Sydney. “There’s only two years’ water supply in Warragamba Dam,” says Flannery, “yet Frank Sartor [NSW Minister for Energy and Utilities] is talking about the situation being stable … If the computer models are right then drought conditions will become permanent in eastern Australia.”

Most of NSW is, yet again, experiencing drought with 76 per cent of the state officially drought declared. Drought is the term used, but it is the wrong term. A better term is climate change. Much of western NSW has been strip-mined by hopeless farming practices and when the landscape is changed, the climate changes.

“Water is going to be in short supply across the eastern states,” says Flannery. Pumping water from catchment areas near Sydney is not going to be enough, and will create knock-on effects in those catchments. The water restrictions now in force in Sydney are never going to be lifted, except after a run of freak conditions, just as Warragamba Dam is never again going to be full unless there is a freak period of high rainfall unlikely to be sustained.

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12 Responses to Fifteen Years Into The Australian Permanent Drought

  1. Ross Giddings says:

    Tim Flannery aka Flim Flam Flannery

  2. Olive Joe says:

    15 years ago I lived in Perth on my 8000 tree olive farm just north of the city.
    I watered all 8000 trees daily with underground water that was free as did all the farmers in the area and still are.

    Also the whole of the other side of Australia has had massive flooding at various stages in the last 15 years.

    Interesting how the end of the world is always just around the corner.

  3. OldCynic says:

    If you were to take issue with him about the accuracy of his prediction, Mr Flannery would probably say that he has been correct and that Australia has always been on the verge of water shortages in the last 15 years.He would point to the long drought over the last few years, and the fact that Sydney has had water restrictions in force for the last 4-6 months, and that Sydney’s desalination plant (built over the last fifteen years) has been in use this year.

    ie, he probably thinks the facts vindicate his dire predictions. The lack of water restrictions for most of those fifteen years is probably what he would term “freak conditions”. The problem that I have is that his predictions were apocalyptic without being sufficiently specific to be testable by comparison to the actual facts. It is a trait unfortunately shared by most climate alarmists.

    I regard it as intellectual dishonesty

  4. Graeme No.3 says:

    Good old Flim-Flam as he is known as among many of the public. Others have forgotten his name, especially those politicians who rushed to spend taxpayer money on desalinations stations, which mostly sat idle. Even in South Australia, “the driest State in the driest continent”.
    Although, to be accurate, that plant does produce a little water at times. Not enough to make any difference to the water stocks but because it must be run regularly or it would become defunct. It was going to run on “renewables” but fortunately they installed a large diesel generator, which has been vital to keep it ready to go whenever the water runs out. That in a State with renewables supplying 50% of the electricity (thanks to some ‘creative’ calculating).
    Flim-Flam has moved on and mostly kept quiet, although a year or two ago was warning about rapid sea rise – yes, he lives right on the waterfront.

    • Crispin in Waterloo says:

      Driest continent? I presume then he has not heard of Antarctica. He should catch up on his worldly-wise-ness. Overlooking something as large as Antarctica is like overlooking the Australian historical record of periodic drought.

  5. Tony, I have a friend and associate Dr (medical GP) Weston Allen who wrote “The Weathermakers Re-examined”. I commend it to you and your audience if you/they have not already read it. In that book Weston systematically demolishes, with facts, the fallacies and exaggerations of Flannery. I have read the book and have found it to be a remarkable piece of scholarship, worthy of a PhD in itself. Even more so given that Weston wrote it whilst doing his job as a doctor. Weston is and always has been exceptional with Maths. He started off his university education as an engineer and switched to medicine. In a way he is your kindred spirit.

    Flannery, I think, is a nice person who means well. There is no malice in what he professes, only profound ignorance and a desire to be the centre of attention. He has caused, in my opinion, a great deal of harm to the Australian economy and continues to be active even though all of his predictions have failed to come to pass. I was once told that there is only one thing more dangerous than a fool and that is an articulate fool. The pity of it is that this world seems to be full of Flannerys and not enough Hellers. Please keep up the great job you are doing.

  6. Don B says:

    It is likely that dams were mismanaged in 2011 because of claims that even if rains fell they would not fill the reservoirs. Instead of letting out water in anticipation of well forecasted flooding rains, the dams were allowed to fill to the bursting point before water was released, flooding and killing people. 

    “Judge finds in favour of 6,800 residents who sued over management of Wivenhoe and Somerset dams ”

  7. Don B says:

    In 2007, Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery made this bizarre claim while hyping the threat to Australia from global warming:

    “Even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and river systems.”

  8. Peter Carroll says:

    Oh heck, I’ve missed out again! I’ve been living in Perth since 1990 and we still haven’t run out of water. Damn!
    Tim Flannery again gives vent to his ignorance by stating that, Perth has a, “buffer of underground water resources”. This “buffer”, is Perth’s MAIN water source. 80% of our drinking water comes from underground.
    He does however say, IF the computer models are right?
    Obviously they aren’t, or weren’t.

  9. Mark Luhman says:

    The Arizona drought is not working out well either drove by Roosevelt lake today and it full! As are all the reservoirs in the Salt River system.

  10. nfw says:

    Ah, computer models. They are never wrong are they Flim? It’s sunny this week in Sydney but more “never going to rain again” rain is forecast for the weekend.

  11. Peter Blackmore says:

    Dr Tim Flannery was Australia’s Scientist of the Year in 2007, for his interest in, and book about Climate Change. His PHD was in Mammology – the Evolution in Kangaroos.
    Despite being a nice guy, his predictions about our water availability have provided a great source of humour for the populace.
    When Sydney’s main dam – Warragamba – filled up (it was not going to do that ever again) , the TV News crews would go there to wait for the inevitable spillway overflow. After the third time, they stopped going there.
    Last year the Sydney Desal plant was arced up and for a few months (three?), made a contribution until the dams were full again.
    Keep up the good work Tony!

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