A Few Words inspired by a visit to Doha

Without fear I choose to write on the topic water today. The ABC website tells me Lake Eyre is filling faster than it has for 40 years. The certainty of life it offers the incredible indigenous fish seemingly able to withstand impossibly long periods without it is impressive. As certainly you will be reading elsewhere about the bird life now nesting there. It is almost impossible to understand how birds are able to predict the arrival of it. Water and  fish living in such a dry area.  

Just as certainly mankind has an infinity with H2O. Without palatable water we die. Here in Doha we are surrounded by it. As has happened in Dubai artificial islands have been made to provide habitable locations for the wealthy to live. The most prestigious area here is just such a place. The indigenous nomads who ranged these countries just a few years before would find it unrecognisable.

The dry landscape is being transformed. Where we live in Upper North Torquay cultivated flowers grew only two years ago. Now that area is a giant dormitory. New houses are completed each week. On a larger scale a modern city is being constructed in Doha. Rows of multi storey buildings are under construction. Freeways, roads, and streets are transforming the desert.

This is an area where rain is as unpredictable as it is at Lake Eyre. Desalination in only possible on such a large scale because energy is cheap. Without cheap energy none of this would be happening. Osmosis is naturally slow. So too is distillation.  Energy provides the power to extract the salt from saline water quickly.

Once fresh water is produced grass grows. Avenues of trees survive as if this was an oasis. Man is able to rehydrate.  The hot desert air is doing its best to extract every drop of moisture in the air yet even exhaling does not stop him or her when water is so abundant. 

This city will grow. It will prosper because of the ingenuity of the engineers able to turn brine into clean water. Without their help camels could not survive in the number as  individuals are predicted to live here in future.They can only do so because the stuff mankind takes for granted is abundantly available here with modern engineering.

Should it be?  That is a question I cannot answer. Every person has a right to potable water. If you grew up in Australia you are aware of this . If you are a visitor to Sydney you will have heard it is necessary to conserve water. My reading tells me Sydney water usage has reached a number where is now 50% of the reserves. The reserves meant to last three years have had most of its  allocation consumed in just 1 year.

If Australia knows about water conservation so do the Arabs. Saudi’s Arabia has bought a large tract of Western Australia not because it was cheap land but because it is in an area recognised as having a reliable rainfall. The Saudi’s plan to grow cereal crops on the land not to sell but to ship to Saudi Arabia as grain because this grain is really water they have harvested from us. 

Water is precious. Oil wealth is nothing near as precious as abundant rain. In listening to a talk given on board by an oceanographer on climate change he was indecisive about it – possibly because he wanted to keep his job in addressing a room with many skeptics. There may be scientists who remain skeptical but if they are it is their duty to test their question against the known science because it comes down to a realisation climate change is real. George the oceanographer said as much in his talk. Anecdotal references by people on board supported his evidence. 

Water is abundant. Very little of it however is available to many people on earth. When you drop an ice cube into your G and T think about it. When you brush your teeth remind yourself. And when you dream, dream of standing under a waterfall and marvel at the sweet sound in makes and the life it sustains.

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