Victorian water campaigners unite


Victoria's three largest community water campaign groups have united to campaign for sustainable alternatives to the state government's new water infrastructure projects.

In a statement released on October 21, the Clean Ocean Foundation, Plug the Pipe and Watershed Victoria annnounced the formation of the Victorian Water Forum (VWF) and called on the state government to suspend plans to construct the Wonthaggi desalination plant and north-south pipeline and instead fast-track a parliamentary inquiry into water.

VWF is calling for "the upgrade to the Eastern [sewage] Treatment plant, which would produce the same level of purified, potable water as the proposed Wonthaggi desalination plant (150 GL), at approximately 45% less cost and without the massive on-going economic, environmental and social costs of the desalination plant". This would also prevent the discharge of the same quantity of effluent into the sea at the Gunnamatta outfall.

The statement also calls for water harvesting, a "continued focus on strategies to reduce water consumption" and the cancellation of the north-south pipeline from the Goulburn River to Melbourne "due to the economic, environmental and social damage to Victoria and the Murray Darling Basin".

The statement conludes that "The formation of the VWF has come at a time of a world economic crisis, heightening the need for Melbourne to find the right, long-term solution ... Upgrading the Eastern Treatment plant rather than continuing with the desalination plant would save over $1.3 billion, which could go towards other water strategies ... rather than pursuing the need to take water from Northern Victoria."

In an October 25 press release, the Bass Coast Boardriders Club pointed to the dangers of pollution posed by the Wonthaggi desalination plant: "When Dr Black, the government's own independent oceanographer at the EES [environmental effects statement] hearings on Wednesday 29th October darkly suggested the best place in Victoria for such a [desalination] plant is Tasmania we should all be concerned."

The press release cites Dr Jochen Kaempf of Flinders University, the independent expert witness on oceanography, claiming that the plant "will spew out a cocktail of toxic effluent that will not disperse as the government initially predicted and may well cause upwellings of toxic muck into the shallows, an area in which marine life, surfers and other lovers of the sea frequent".

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