IN numbers it looks like this: 26,000,000,000 litres.

Ivan Dean, Mayor of Launceston, says that amount of water is “miniscule”. He said so in an email to me on 7 August and I quote, “… we are told the water drawn is miniscule in comparison to the water it holds.”

This statement gives two problems. First, Mr. Dean and others were told “something” by “someone”. Second, he thinks the 26,000,000,000 litres of water the proposed mill will use every year is “miniscule”.

I have no sharp sticks for His Worship, he has a difficult job, but I do have a sinking stomach for the wasted drinking water which will end up in the ocean as pulp mill effluent and goodness knows what that will do to Bass Strait. Not even the scientists admit they know.

I asked The Mayor in a 13 August email if he would like to rescind his 7 August use of the word, “miniscule”. He answered the next day by saying, “I didn’t say ‘water usage was miniscule’ but I did say we are told that is the case having regard to the capacity of the lake.”  OK, so he didn’t say miniscule, just quoted it from the same ‘someone’ I guess. The ‘lake’, I assume, is the backwater of the Trevallyn Dam.

If I am not wrong “it” is the same lake that starts somewhere around Longford and continues to the Trevallyn Dam.

To set the problem apart: twenty-six billion litres of water equals ONE THIRD of the dam’s total capacity.

OK, Mr. Mayor, you are off the hook; you only quoted “someone” who told you this amount of water is “miniscule”, and apparently accepted it without challenge, as correct. You ‘sort of’ said ‘miniscule’ by acceptance. I would certainly like to know who told you BECAUSE THEY ARE DEAD WRONG! Twenty-six billion litres is a helluva lot of water!

I am not a scientist and do not take readily to the language of kilojoules and megabytes and the like. However, I do know what a litre of water is: four glasses of water from my tap which takes thirteen seconds to draw.

So … instead of using convoluting scientific data, let’s take a simple layman’s view of water quantity. We hear many statistics like, “enough to fill an Olympic swimming pool 500 times” or some number which only confuses; or “enough water to fill Sydney Harbour … ” Is that at high or low tide? Perhaps 20 billion full bath tubs makes more sense. These statistics and figures can get very confusing to the non-scientist.

I am about to take away your confusion Mr. Mayor.

So … I know glasses of water … how many GLASSES of water is 26,000,000,000 litres? At one glass of 250 mil then, there are four glasses of water to a litre.  That makes 104,000,000,000 glasses of water. Are you with me Mr. Dean? Don’t glaze over.

Ready for the simply truthful statistics?

If a glass is 7cm wide there are approximately 15 glasses, side by side, per metre. Multiply this by 1,000 for the metres in a kilometre and you get 15,000 glasses per km. The distance from Mayor Dean’s office to the proposed pulp mill site is approximately 50 kilometres. That would mean 750,000 glasses of water, neck-to- neck, so-to-speak.

Now my venture into high stats gets a bit difficult but I have had the figures checked by a noted mathematics lecturer. He felt an additional ten percent would be more accurate. But, heck, what’s ten billion litres amongst friends?

What it all boils down to, Mr. Dean, is that 104,000,000,000 glasses of water, lined up from the top of your desk to the mill site and return and to the mill and return … would number … ready? approximately 140,000 lines of filled water glasses! Not even Hiz Honour’s desk is that big.

I believe if we stretch the area of Greater Launceston a bit to Scottsdale on the East, Campbell Town on the South and Devonport on the West, we would have a population of about 140,000 people. That means one fifty kilometre line of water glasses for almost everyone in the North East.

To become even more pedantic:  we are all supposed to drink about five litres of water a day … call it 2000 glasses of water per year.

That leaves those millions of glasses waiting to be emptied; in fact each of us would have 748,000 glasses of water left. It could give John Gay something to do instead of running around China looking for a silver lining.

Now, Your Honour, do you still think that you were given the real skinny about the word ‘miniscule’? Perhaps whoever is blowing in the corporate ear might be immersing you (no religious pun intended) with a lot of hot water … made by hot air.

26,000,000,000 litres of water is a huge amount and part of it is mine and part is yours and part belongs to everyone else in the state. Imagine the traffic jam when 140,000 lines of glasses are queued on the East Tamar Highway!

Let me put it in a non-miniscule way, the water, Mr. Mayor … all of the water, belongs to the people. It does not belong to anyone else. Not Government. Not Business. Not Bureaucrats. Let me repeat for emphasis; the water in Trevallyn Dam and Lake belongs to the people … full stop.

The real horror of it all is, Mr. Mayor, and you have stated this yourself, is that neither you nor any councillor in the entire state can be actively involved in the decision to build the mill which will use our drinking water. That decision is in the hands of the state politicians and a few of their minions.

No one else.

That 26 billion litres is a torrent of water potentially piped for the profit of a few people. Something is wrong when a government can override the very people who elect them.

The whole question of this theft of the people’s water and the proposed pulp mill needs a good hosing, not a miniscule one either.

Thank you for your attention, Mr. Mayor.

Buck Emberg is 74 years old, Born USA, Editor of two small papers in Canada, arrived Tasmania 1971, Taught U of Tas, PhD Student in History 2005 (started PhD in 1968 in Univ of Washington, Seattle which proves, wife Joan says, that Buck is a slow learner.) Journalist for TAFE, writer of a number of books about Tasmanian history, bunch of degrees, can’t fix anything mechanical, terrible maths, good student and committed person for Tasmania as a Natural State. Retired Univ. Lecturer (Univ. of Maryland, Europe and Asia, lived in 12 countries in the world, fluent English speaker, travelled in 125 countries, caught between Turks and Kurds while battle raged and found ourselves in Yugoslavia many times when it was coming apart. Life is good, especially with Joan.

 

Buck Emberg

I have no sharp sticks for His Worship, he has a difficult job, but I do have a sinking stomach for the wasted drinking water which will end up in the ocean as pulp mill effluent and goodness knows what that will do to Bass Strait. Not even the scientists admit they know.

That 26 billion litres is a torrent of water potentially piped for the profit of a few people. Something is wrong when a government can override the very people who elect them.