Wednesday, January 05, 2011

ABC News Report: Queensland floods demolish Great Dividing Range!

According to ABC News, bad as the Queensland floods have been, they have also had the startling effect of making the Balonne river valley – a major tributary of the Darling River, in Far South Queensland – “downstream”* of the Fitzroy River and Rockhampton in Central Queensland. Dr John Bradfield must be sitting up in his grave, if not also having his corpse spontaneously re-hydrate, at this nation-building pipe-dream development appearing out of thin air**. What’s next: Canberra “downstream” of the Parramatta River?

The ABC’s sloppy reportage matters because it is inadvertently so close to the truth. Central Queensland’s Upper Darling Basin (most notably here, the Balonne, Maranoa and Warrego rivers) shares a boundary “fence”, several hundred kilometres long, with the Fitzroy River’s southern tributaries (primarily the Dawson and Comet Rivers). The heavy rains, this time, appear to have missed the Upper Warrego catchment, which is on the west side of Carnarvon National Park, starting as close as 300 km WSW of Rockhampton.

Nowhere else along the Great Dividing Range is the irony of this borderline more exquisite. On the well-watered east/sea side of Carnarvon National Park, heavy rain will always causes major economic disruption – and to add insult to injury, the unwanted fresh water will take its own sweet time to disperse out to sea near Rockhampton. Conversely, on the inland side, it seems that there could never be too much fresh water. Had the flood instead been channelled – naturally or artificially – down the Warrego River (and thence the Darling, downstream of Bourke), it would have wound its way 2000km or so, to the still-thirsty Lower Murray, downstream of Mildura. This 2000km corridor is very lightly populated – Charleville, Cunnamulla (both QLD) and Wilcannia (NSW) are the only communities of note along it.

* “While [Rockhampton] remains the focus of the emergency, swollen rivers are causing concern further downstream . . . in the [Balonne valley] towns of St George and Surat”. Also ABC News Victoria, 7pm 4/01/2011: St George “further downstream” of Rockhampton and the Fitzroy River.

** Note, however, that Bradfield’s scheme – oddly, in my opinion – sought to arbitrage the Great Dividing Range in North Queensland; i.e. to divert water into the Lake Eyre Basin, not the Murray-Darling.

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