The current drought, exacerbated by global warming, has shown that current levels of water use are completely unsustainable in Australia, the world’s driest inhabited continent. Excessive water use, especially by heavy industry and water-intensive agribusiness, is causing irreparable damage to our fragile ecosystems and creating chronic watershortages.
Conventional free-market economics aims to solve this problem by putting a price on water and allowing it to be tradedby those who can afford to purchase it.
This approach allows governments to ignore the real challenge of conserving water properly and rationing its use according to need. Trading in water encourages speculation and the most profitable rather than the most sustainable andsocially just uses. It leads to poor farming practices and increased prices for residential use.
The National Water Initiative has this approach. It is also insufficiently funded to achieve the wholesale conversion of water infrastructure and reduction in water demand that the ecosystems along the Murray-Darling basin need to recover.
A serious water conservation policy has to target the big industrial and agricultural water users. Currently the lack of water conservation by industry and agribusiness means that the efforts of householders to conserve water are being wasted.
The Socialist Alliance says that water is not simply a commodity or an input into industry and agriculture but is the central element of our ecosystems. Instead of market-based approaches we advocate an all-round plan for water sustainability based on a thorough scientific assessment of rivers, wetlands and water tables.
The knowledge of Indigenous communities is an essential part of making that assessment and developing sound proposalsfor water conservation.
In the country, measures to preserve normal water flows in rivers and wetlands and implement low-input sustainable farming practices are essential. In the cities, we need to reduce water waste and start harvesting storm water and recycling waste water.There is enough water for everyone if comprehensive conservation measures are adopted and its use is allocated fairly.
Such an approach will also remove the need to build further large, environmentally damaging, dams.
To achieve the goal of water sustainability, public ownership and democratic, accountable management of water resources is essential. Unless the water supply is publicly owned, the profit motive will always disrupt scientifically-based water conservation measures.
No privatisation of waterNo privatisation of water and water infrastructure (dams, water pipelines, pumping stations). Where these have already been privatised, they should be returned to public ownership
No public-private partnerships for water projects. All water projects to be 100% in public hands.
No water trading
Create an all-round water conservation plan
a. In the country
Prioritise the replanting of native vegetation in damaged catchment areas
b. In urban areas
Full support to affected communities
Policy for the 2007 federal election