Dispelling myths about water

by Ron Pike

The myths about water are many.  Below I describe seven.
They range from (1) Australia being the driest continent on earth, to (2) all of our rivers dying from overuse, right up to (3) the government being required to return water to the environment.

As explorer Sturt rather boldly stated when he discovered the Murray River, ‘I have found Australia’s Mississippi’ after he left the Hume River(Murrumbidgee)  Pic ABC

Most of these myths are rooted in ‘environmentalism’, a political movement which has become a form of religious belief that fosters a sense of moral superiority in the believer, but does not burden him with adherence to scrutiny or veracity.  Many environmentalists arrogantly believe their cause is so important that they should not be questioned or challenged in scientific debate. Have you ever heard an environmentalist explain what the environment is, or where it resides?

For years now I have used municipal flood records to refute the myth (4), the oft falsely-repeated claim that since we invested in water conservation and irrigation, we have had fewer over-the-bank flows (floods) than in the century previous.   In reality, we have had many more, and you do not need a degree in anything other than common sense to work out why.

But here are some not-so-well-known facts ( (a) to (g) ) that should be shouted out in the present flood (pardon the pun) of misinformation about our water resources.

(a) Australia has more precipitation per head of population than most other countries on Earth, e.g.  megalitres per person: Australia: 140, Brazil 130, USA 33, Japan 6, United Kingdom 4.

(b) Of our precipitation, about 13 per cent runs to the sea and this amounts to about 290 million Megalitres per year from the mainland and 50 million megalitres from Tasmania.

(c) While the amount we use for all mankind’s purposes varies from year to year, it rarely exceeds 5 per cent of this huge volume.

How is it possible to argue that we, the people, are depriving ‘the environment’ of water when people are only using 0.4 per cent of the total precipitation and around 5 per cent of runoff?

How then is it possible for anyone and most of all Politicians, to argue that our rivers are over-committed? 

The Murray is way under-committed. Australia almost tops the world chart for the highest amount of rainfall per capita allowing 340 million megalitres to run into the sea of which we use just 5 per cent per year.

How can the federal government justify overriding Section 100 of the Constitution to return water to ‘the environment’ when the people of Australia only use 0.4 per cent of the precipitation that falls from the heavens?

Politicians, if they are to regain any credibility, must recognise the facts
(d) that the bulk of our runoff is between Adelaide and Cairns, which is right where we need it.
All we must do is conserve these huge flows in times of excess and where necessary divert westward.

(e) Mankind has yet to develop a better water conservation system than the building of dams.  
(f) Building Dams would massively grow our economy, generate a huge growth in jobs, and if practically managed, stop most of our flood damage.

But flowing from this revelation of where our water resources are, is a much bigger and more important truth that has been buried by those not saddled with a commitment to truth.

(g) The Australian river with the largest run-off by a very large margin is the Murray River.  As Sturt rather boldly stated when he progressed from the Murrumbidgee to a river he called the Hume, ‘I have found Australia’s Mississippi.’   This is not surprising when we consider that the Mighty Murray has a catchment of one million square kilometres which includes most of Australia’s snow country, a fact overlooked by our dishonest environmentalists.

The outflow from the Murray most years is over double that of our next biggest river, the Clarence.  The total storage capacity for all dams in the MDB including the Snowy Scheme is 29 million megalitres.  Measured at Euston these are some of the historical flows in the Murray River millions of ML/yr


1957 was an unusually dry year, and during the dry years of the Millennium Drought, the flow past Euston dropped below 2,400,000 megalitres in only one year.

The flow past this point in 2010 and 2011 which ended this drought is believed to be over 30,000,000 megalitres. each year and outflows have remained around this and above every year since.

So why is the Murray-Darling Basin Authority releasing around 2,400,000 megalitres of stored water every year into an already swollen river?   It is an absurd waste of a needed resource.  The lower Murray is always awash with more water than we can possibly use and this is why we can never successfully manage this resource until we build Chowilla Dam.

Recent debate about our water resources has been appalling to watch, and any rational arguments have been drowned out by the politics of perception.  Truth as expressed above has been washed away (pardon the pun) by media-generated emotion of myths of (5) ‘dying rivers’, (6) a water-starved environment, and (7) dead fish due to human factors not natural cycles.

My CONCLUSIONS from the facts we have

A   Australia’s water system is not overburdened by irrigation extractions, and would hugely benefit from more storage.

B   The system is over-regulated by multiple bureaucracies; from Canberra, the states, and local government and is not over-committed for irrigation. 

C   The lack of truth in public discourse relating to our water resources has not only killed off rational debate, but has undermined our human decency that flows from acceptance of that truth and unpins our respect for one another.

D   Previously-thriving communities built on the abundance of our water resources and a respect for one another’s ambition and enterprise are regressing.

E   Environmental bureaucrats continue to argue against the facts, and use their errors to justify the iniquitous Murray-Darling Basin Plan.  Federal action via the MDB Plan is an act of extreme incompetence and a depravity.  The mis-management of our largest water resource, the Murray-Darling system, is a sin against the people of Australia.

F   We need to build many more dams, especially the Chowilla Dam

G  If Prime Minister Albanese is serious about job and wage growth he must take the brakes off the peoples’ ‘Tools of Trade’, which are Water, Power, and Fuel.

Rally in 2019 to tear up the Murray Darling plan: