Friday, 8 January 2010

Learning to share

is one of the hard lessons of childhood. Piagetian theory suggests that children are pretty much ego-centric until they reach about twelve years of age. I have news for Herr Piaget. Many adults do not like to share either. They are still ego-centric.
Australia has a water problem. I know. I live in the driest state of the driest continent on planet Earth. Strangely there have recently been floods over a large area of New South Wales. There should be water coming into South Australia along the River Murray. If nature was permitted to take its course then there would be a flow through to the Coorong and even out to sea. It will not happen. The Coorong will continue to dry up. The Lower Lakes will continue to dry up. The mouth of the river will silt up.
New South Wales will not share water. They are not required to share it yet. They have not reached their full storage allocation. If they do then the Victorians will want their allocation next. South Australia will be last. We are not likely to see any. It matters not one bit that the citrus trees and other crops along the Murray are dying. Of course there will be further complaints when certain commodities are in short supply and the price of some fruit and vegetables rises.
It would take a national referendum to change any of this. Under our Constitution it is the states which have responsibility for the water within their boundaries. To change that and give our Federal (national) government control we would need a majority of people in a majority of the states to vote in favour of change. They will not. Why would anyone want to give up water? Why give up control over one of the most precious commodities on Earth? Wars may well be fought over water rights in the future.
My father is trying to keep our garden alive - nothing more. He does not waste water. He waters those things that need water and uses only as much water as he judges they need. We have more rainwater storage than most Adelaide properties. I fill containers, place them on the little wheeled cart. He pushes them to the trees we are trying to save. I save the washing water and put it on the lawn to keep the roots alive although the top is almost crisp in places. That saved the lawn last year and, according to the man who mows the lawn, it will save the lawn this year if we keep it up.
We put out water for the neighbourhood cats in an old icecream container, for the lizards in a large but shallow pottery saucer, for the birds in the hanging containers they use as baths. A visitor to our home is horrified by this. "Why waste water?" they asked. My father and I looked at each other. It is not a waste of water. We are simply trying to share. I am not sure we are succeeding very well.


Rachel Fenton said...

Perhaps they'd be happy if they saw you all sharing a tub out on the lawn?

It's crazy. I live where it rains quite a lot - though we haven't had decent rainfall for some time now, and we do what we can to save water - share baths, use dish water for watering etc, recycling as much as we can - but there are not many who do this much I reckon. And I doubt your critics do so much themselves.

Donna Hosie said...

You have it right; there is no way NSW residents will vote to share the water that falls here.

In a world that is dominated by technology, why oh why can not more be done to resource sea water? We live on an island for heavens sake!

catdownunder said...

Where do you put the salt from a desalination plant though?
The Cth may have to use emergency powers under the Constitution - but that would upset the voters in NSW.
It is why Australia does have to limit population growth - and think about bringing water from Lake Argyll down through the centre.

Adelaide Dupont said...

Thinking of Piaget's conservation experiment, which involved water.

(How much water is in the big tube, and how much in the small tube? Is it the same?)

The Swiss certainly weren't deprived of water, and many European nations have hydralics or whatever the hydroelectric scheme is called.

There are lots of Australian children who have never seen a fresh glass of water, desalinated or otherwise.

How would they appreciate that it is a valuable resource?

And what about bottled water?

Yes, where would we put the salt? Into the ground, and wreck the soil?

"A continent for an island and an island for a continent".