Catering For The 21st-Century Customer: Tips To Modernize Your Business

The world of business is changing at lightning speed. With customer demands and consumer habits evolving continually, modernization is key. If your business is lagging behind, and you’re keen to ensur...

News Company - avatar News Company

Treating suspected autism at 12 months of age improves children's language skills

The theory is that if therapies are started early enough, it might be possible to alter the trajectory of autism.ShutterstockTherapies given to infants before they receive a diagnosis of autism may le...

Andrew Whitehouse, Bennett Chair of Autism, Telethon Kids Institute, Univeristy of Western Australia, University of Western Australia - avatar Andrew Whitehouse, Bennett Chair of Autism, Telethon Kids Institute, Univeristy of Western Australia, University of Western Australia

Team-building exercises can be a waste of time. You achieve more by getting personal

The key to an effective team-builiding exercise is understanding a team is a social network built on connections between individuals.www.shutterstock.comSomeone we know recently told us about a team-b...

Julien Pollack, Associate Professor, University of Sydney - avatar Julien Pollack, Associate Professor, University of Sydney

Changing the Australian Constitution was always meant to be difficult – here's why

Debates about constitutional change in Australia inevitably raise the poor success rate of referendums. Only eight out of 44 attempts have ever succeeded and there has not been a successful constitut...

Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney - avatar Anne Twomey, Professor of Constitutional Law, University of Sydney

Lights out! Clownfish can only hatch in the dark – which light pollution is taking away

Some 22% of the worlds' coastlines are exposed to artificial light at night. Emily Fobert, Author providedClownfish achieved worldwide fame following Finding Nemo, but it turns out these fish don&rsqu...

Emily Fobert, Research Associate, Flinders University - avatar Emily Fobert, Research Associate, Flinders University

An electronic chip that makes 'memories' is a step towards creating bionic brains

Researcher Taimur Ahmed holds the newly designed chip.Author providedWhat better way to build smarter computer chips than to mimic nature’s most perfect computer – the human brain?Being ab...

Sumeet Walia, Senior Lecturer and Vice Chancellor's Fellow, RMIT University - avatar Sumeet Walia, Senior Lecturer and Vice Chancellor's Fellow, RMIT University

As the federal government debates an Indigenous Voice, state and territories are pressing ahead

The Queensland treaty process is still in the early stages and negotiations will not begin for several years. But it's still a historic step forward for Indigenous communities.Tracey Nearmy/AAPQueensl...

Harry Hobbs, Lecturer, University of Technology Sydney - avatar Harry Hobbs, Lecturer, University of Technology Sydney

Your body as a weapon: the rise of the 'revenge body' online

A 'revenge body' is built to show someone how well you are doing without them. With the advent of social media the phenomenon is increasingly popular.ShutterstockMonths after a public breakup with her...

Mair Underwood, Lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Queensland - avatar Mair Underwood, Lecturer in Anthropology and Sociology, The University of Queensland

Stop worrying about screen 'time'. It's your child’s screen experience that matters

Guidelines advise children under two shouldn't have any screen time, but most do anyway.Photo by Jelleke Vanooteghem on UnsplashMost (80%) Australian parents worry children spend too much time with sc...

Brittany Huber, Postdoctoral researcher, Swinburne University of Technology - avatar Brittany Huber, Postdoctoral researcher, Swinburne University of Technology

Finally, the NDIS will fund sex therapy. But it should cover sex workers too

Whether sex therapy should be a funded disability support has been controversial since the NDIS was rolled out.From shutterstock.comThe Administrative Appeals Tribunal recently granted a woman with mu...

Matthew Yau, Adjunct professor, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University - avatar Matthew Yau, Adjunct professor, College of Healthcare Sciences, James Cook University

Politics with Michelle Grattan: Megan Davis on a First Nations Voice in the Constitution

Last week on this podcast we talked to Ken Wyatt about the government’s plan for a referendum – hopefully this parliamentary term – to recognise Indigenous Australians in the Constit...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Team-building exercises can be a waste of time. You achieve more by getting personal

The key to an effective team-builiding exercise is understanding a team is a social network built on connections between individuals.www.shutterstock.comSomeone we know recently told us about a team-b...

The Conversation - avatar The Conversation

Americans focus on responding to earthquake damage, not preventing it, because they're unaware of their risk

Heavily built-up areas can experience more disastrous damage in an earthquake.AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezOn July 4 and 5, two major earthquakes, followed by several thousand smaller ones, struck Sout...

Matt Motta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Oklahoma State University - avatar Matt Motta, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Oklahoma State University

Did we mishear Neil Armstrong's famous first words on the Moon?

It's the case of the missing 'a.'Nick Lehr/The Conversation via NASA, CC BY-SAOn July 20, 1969, an estimated 650 million people watched in suspense as Neil Armstrong descended a ladder towards the sur...

Melissa Michaud Baese-Berk, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Oregon - avatar Melissa Michaud Baese-Berk, Associate Professor of Linguistics, University of Oregon

Nations behave wisely, Israeli foreign minister Abba Eban observed five decades ago, “once they have exhausted all other alternatives”.

One can only hope that proves the case with water policy in Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin, the nation’s largest river system and agricultural heartland.

Read more: Billions spent on Murray-Darling water infrastructure: here's the result

The ABC’s Four Corners program Cash Splash, aired last night, illustrates how thoroughly we are exhausting the options that don’t work to keep rivers being sucked dry by irrigators. Billions of dollars have been spent on infrastructure schemes that have failed to deliver any measurable improvement in water flows or the state of the environment.

The Murray–Darling Basin is Australia’s largest and most complex river system. With 77,000 km of rivers, it is the food bowl of the nation. Murray–Darling Basin Authority

This failure is no surprise to economists who have studied the problems of the Murray-Darling Basin for decades.

The central problem is well understood, as are the workable (and unworkable) possible responses.

The basin covers four states: Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. All state governments have allocated permits to extract water for human uses (irrigated agriculture and urban water). The allocations grew rapidly in the second half of the 20th century, exceeding the sustainable capacity of the natural environment.

One sign of the failure became dramatically obvious in 1991, with an outbreak of toxic blue-green algae over 1,200 km of the Darling River. Algal blooms are fed by nitrogen and other nutrients in fertiliser runoff and sewerage. They continue to occur.

A 2009 algae bloom in the Murray-Darling Basin. Office of the NSW Minister for Water/AAP

This event underlined the need to leave enough water in rivers for “environmental flows” to keep the system healthy.

Acting with what now seems like impressive promptness, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council (made up of the water resources ministers from the basin states, the Australian Capital Territory and the federal government) imposed a cap on water extractions in 1995. It limited extractions to the volume of water capable of being taken out by the infrastructure (pumps, dams, channels, management rules) that existed in 1993-94.

The cap was supposed to be a temporary measure. It wasn’t intended to solve the problem, just stop it getting any worse in the short run.

The long-term solution was to be a system of trade in water rights, introduced by the Council of Australian Governments in 1994. Combined with the right price signals from environmental purchases, this system was meant to allocate water to its most productive uses while reducing extractions to sustainable levels.

A quarter-century on, the cap is only now being phased out, and a vast array of measures have come and gone, including the National Water Initiative, the Water Act of 2007, Water for the Future and the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Buying block

The failure of these initiatives rests on one simple fact: the refusal of irrigation lobby groups to countenance the government buying water rights on the open market to increase environmental flows. Their opposition has been immovable, despite many individual irrigators being keen to sell their water rights and use the money to invest in alternative cropping activities or retire.

On the other hand, there are a lucky (often politically well-connected) few who have done very well from “strategic” purchases of water. Investigative journalist Michael West has noted the National Party’s Party Barnaby Joyce has been publicly hostile towards buybacks of water entitlements but authorised, as federal water resources minister, three major “strategic purchases”.

Instead of water purchases, politicians like Joyce have put their faith in subsidies to infrastructure, to improve the efficiency of water use.

The idea has a lot of intuitive appeal. If less water can be used, it should be possible to increase flows in the river system without reducing agricultural output. With rare exceptions, this appealing vision has dominated the thinking of politicians and much of the public.

The reality is sadly different. The failure of infrastructure-based water recovery was both predictable and predicted.

Read more: Is the Murray-Darling Basin Plan broken?

I pointed out the main difficulties in a piece for ABC Online in 2012. The article didn’t contain any remarkable insights. It simply stated views shared by every independent economist who has worked on the issue.

The illusion of efficiency

Among the many problems with infrastructure schemes, two have stood out.

First, the measured cost of saving water through infrastructure schemes is two to three times as much as that of buying water on the open market.

Second, and more importantly, much of the supposed water savings are illusory. Much of the water “wasted” in irrigation systems is not lost to the environment. Most of the water leakage and seepage from irrigation channels eventually returns to rivers through groundwater systems. So “saving” this water through infrastructure efficiency doesn’t actually add anything more to environmental flows.

My 2012 analysis assumed a scientifically based effort to secure water savings at the lowest possible cost to the public. As the Four Corners report has shown, that assumption was massively over-optimistic. In reality, the scheme has been characterised by lax monitoring, cronyism and rorting.

Read more: 5 ways the government can clean up the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

After the expenditure of billions in public money, the system may be worse off than before. As a result, environmental disasters keep on happening.

Along with recurring algal outbreaks, we are witnessing disasters such as the massive fish kills like that in western New South Wales in January. The massive fish kills have been attributed to little or no flow in the Darling River combined with plunges from high temperatures, starving the water of oxygen.

Hundreds of thousands of dead fish in waterways around Menindee, far-west New South Wales, in January 2019. Graeme McCrabb/AAP

As the riverine environment keeps deteriorating, there’s no sign of any positive change in policy.

Eventually, though, we must hope Abba Eban will be proved right. Having exhausted all the options that don’t work, we will have to turn to those that do.

Authors: The Conversation

Read more http://theconversation.com/the-murray-darling-basin-scandal-economists-have-seen-it-coming-for-decades-119989