Tucked away at the bottom of this article about Australia taking up nuclear power is this bizarre statement about water trading which kind of demonstrates why people should think carefully before commenting outside their area of expertise.
Water and irrigation experts remain unsure about whether any of the measures decided on at Tuesday’s meeting of state and Commonwealth leaders would free extra water.
Peter Schwerdtfeger, emeritus professor of meteorology at Flinders University’s Airborne Research Centre, said he agreed that overallocation of water needed to be stopped, but with “precious little else” that the meeting decided on.
“Water trading as it stands now is an evil nonsense. It has allowed the fallacious belief to develop that water can be sold either upstream or downstream without any consequences.
“Water that is sold to NSW will not flow downstream and the bed of the Murray may dry out. It is not environmentally or economically viable.
“Water trading only works if you have a surplus of water … why don’t we encourage people to use water more efficiently?”
It could be that Prof. Schwerdtfeger has been taken out of context or misquoted, but it seems more likely that he doesn’t understand the basic point that trade, by putting a market price on water it implicitly results in it being put to
the most more efficient uses.
I don’t think that anyone is under the illusion that water is a commodity that can be traded “without any consequences”. Environmental flows must be maintained, losses when trades occur over long distances and such are all issues, but hardly irreconcilable ones. Most importantly is trading is more important when there is scarcity, its barely necessary if you have surplus. Prof. Schwerdtfeger may be an expert in climatology, but when he’s talking about trading, I don’t think he has a clue.