By Elena Garcia
About 50 people attended the Queensland Water Summit in Dalby on September 23. Despite its midweek timing, a wide range of people attended from across the state, including farmers threatened by increasingly severe drought and mining company pollution of their water sources, to community members, doctors and clergy from communities impacted by coal seam gas, underground coal gasification and coalmining.
The summit was organised and funded by independent Senator Glenn Lazarus, who spoke briefly but mostly listened to the concerns raised by attendees.
He also coordinated a feedback session at the end of the day to collect practical suggestions from participants on how best to sustainably manage Australian water resources. He will submit them to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, along with his repeated invitation to Turnbull to visit the gasfield-affected communities.
Four speakers gave presentations. Associate Professor Larelle Fabbro from Central Queensland University spoke on the need for sources of water that do not dry up, within a historical Australian weather pattern of floods every five years and droughts every 10. Climate change will mean more intense events.
The large dams called for by the Nationals as the means to "drought-proof Australia" change water quality and encourage toxic algal blooms. The longer water is stored, the poorer its quality; and the bigger the dam becomes, the more the water quality changes for the worse, as the water mixes less. In summer the surface heats and the cold bottom layer rots and breeds highly toxic algal blooms often invisible on the surface. Many types of toxic algal blooms have still not been identified.
Large dams can also prevent many fish species from migrating from fresh to saltwater to breed.