Sunday, October 08, 2006

Water worries Steve on his way to Kew gardens

UWA plant conservation biology professor Steve Hopper warned this week that drawing water from Yarragadee would be a big mistake.

Dr Hopper was head-hunted for the job of running the Royal Botanical Gardens in London, a post he will take up when he leaves this Sunday.

A strong advocate for conservation, Dr Hopper's dedication to preserving natural heritage and resources is one of the reasons he was chosen for the job.

He said the push for WA to draw groundwater from Yarragadee in the South-West would result in irreparable environmental damage.

"Yarragadee is going to have a major impact on local communities and on the globally unique plants and animals down south and in the area around Nannup," he said.

"If you start putting bores in and drawing groundwater, the first things affected are shallow bodies of water, like ponds, which are groundwater-fed.
UWA professor Steve Hopper, who will become head of
Kew Gardens in London next week, said Perth shouldn't
draw its water from the South-West.

"A drop in ground level of half a metre will affect them ahead of deep lakes and rivers because they are full of plants and animals unique to south-western Australia and are significant globally.
"The environmental impacts are pretty scary and Yarragadee is only a short-term solution.
"People need to think long and hard about it; is it the start of a solution or a stop-gap that's going to cause long-term environmental damage?

"It doesn't solve the basic problem which is the expanding human population without a change in how we use water."

Dr Hopper said the Water Corporation was on track, looking at a mix of strategies to source water, including establishing a desalination plant and recycling grey water.
But Yarragadee was a repeat of the Gnangara Mounds strategy.

"If you look at Gnangarra Mounds it's pretty disturbing," he said.
"Some dams in Perth have had a decline in rainfall up to 50% and the Gnangara Mounds supplies are dwindling rapidly."

Dr Hopper said the community needed to embrace recycling water as a long-term strategy with local councils working together with householders.

"Hundreds of gigalitres go off the roads and our roofs every year," he said.
"If we got only half of that back, that's the same amount the South-West Yarragadee is going to deliver.

"There's a huge catchment of water that, with adequate treatment, would be perfect.
"If we want to live here for hundreds of years we've got to start doing things slightly differently."

As head of Kew Gardens, Dr Hopper will be in charge of the world's largest living collection of flora, with over 30,000 different species covering 120ha on the Thames in London.

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