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October 15, 2007 

Blog Action Day

I wondered what to write for this.  I thought about it a lot.  Then I thought, hey, I work in the industry, I must have lots to write about!  And at the moment, sustainability and the environment is a hot topic.

The project I'm working on finally pumped recycled water up the pipeline last week.  We've done our bit to bring back sport and community events to the city. It is, after all, why I stay in this industry, even if I started by accident.  (Yes, I did fall into a job I love entirely by accident - if you're after career advice, this is the wrong place to look for it!) After almost 10 years of drought there is no outside watering allowed at all (including public parks, gardens and sports grounds) and reservoir levels were down to 6% at the worst of it.  The town I'm working for was created because there was gold there. Unlike Europe, where towns grew up around rivers, this is not uncommon in Australia - gold mining towns where there's no constant water supply. There's no outside watering simply because there is no water.  This is the new reality of living in Australia, in areas which were once fertile but are increasingly dry.

One of the problems we have to contend with is that water isn't looked at consistently.  Groundwater is somehow seen as separate to rivers and lakes.  Rivers divide states and in some cases, like the Murray, flow through them too.  State governments have a lot of power, and each one wants the most, or the best, for it's residents, which usually means more water. They don't always (or ever) agree on the best way forward. Here, the Murray is the lifeblood, and everyone's hopes are pinned on it.  The federal government has worked very hard to pull the Murray Darling basin back into it's control, which makes sense from an environmental perspective.  They will rationalise the irrigation allowances, give a coherent policy. Unfortunately, it just seems to mean that all the "spare" water created by this will be piped to Melbourne, or Bendigo, or Ballarat, along superpipes.  Lifeblood to the cities. And the difference in lifestyles between a rural city and the capital is easy to see. The voters are concentrated in the capital - so increasing the water restrictions there impacts almost directly on the polls. No wonder the rural residents feel hard done by. Water is the big political issue of our times. Climate change comes second, only at the top of the consciousness because of the drought.

Sometimes what I do sucks.  Sometimes I love that out of all the jobs in the world, this one chose me - I get to do what I'm good at and not destroy the environment, or work for companies I disagree with.  But sometimes it sucks.  Because if you're doing it for the good of the environment, then sometimes you have to ignore your career prospects and just stand up and be counted.

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