Otways Subterranean National Park – a world’s first

We start The Sustainable Hour no 303 on 4 March 2020 with Colin Mockett‘s world view. Today Colin explains that one good thing that has come out of the corona virus that is sweeping the world is that carbon emissions are actually decreasing in China. This leaves us to speculate that as this virus spreads and crosses borders, and as flights are cancelled and businesses are closed, will this reduction of carbon into our atmosphere actually become a global trend?

Colin is followed by a brief statement by Tesla’s entrepreneurial founder Elon Musk about the economic insanity of not transitioning to a clean renewable energy future right now.

Our studio guest is Malcolm Gardiner from Land & Water Resources Otway Catchments (LAWROC) Landcare group.

Malcolm is passionate about protecting the Otways. He reflects on the negative system-wide impacts of past land management practices on his beloved catchments and explains the importance of that area getting the protecting it needs by being declared a subterranean National Park.

We can all help with this by signing their petition supporting such a decision. This can be found at www.otwayrangessubterraneannationalpark.org.au

You will also hear Paul Sheldon from Transition Australia with his weekly round up of local, state and national sustainability events, and Mik makes a call for community mobilisation to protect the bike path in Malop Street that Council has decided to rip up.

Until next week: Be the difference.

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Otway Ranges Subterranean National Park

“Since 2019 the Victorian State Government through Minister Lisa Neville has recognised the number of serious issues and declared that the Gellibrand Groundwater Management Area extractions be set at ZERO.

The Gerangamete Groundwater Management Area has been set at 238 ML/year allowing present outstanding farmers’ licences to continue. These licences will expire in 2025 and 2030. In effect a zero limit for the Gerangamete GMA has been recognised.

Unfortunately, this protection of the groundwaters can be overturned quite easily as has been done in the past. Otway Water Book 55 presents a very convincing case that the two Groundwater Management Areas of Gellibrand and Gerangamete should be afforded additional protection by turning them into a first in the world of its kind, a Subterranean National Park.

→ You can help by visiting www.otwayrangessubterraneannationalpark.org.au

→ See also: www.otwaywater.com.au

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Join Geelong’s first Nature Stewards course

Residents with an interest in the local environment and great outdoors are encouraged to apply for Greater Geelong’s inaugural Nature Stewards program.

Nature Stewards will teach 20 participants about our natural environment, through topics such as geology, soils, climate, fungi, plants, water, animals and conservation land management.

Funded by the City and run by Outdoors Victoria, the program will educate people with an interest in the environment and encourage them to become volunteers and advocates. The 10-week course begins on 2 May and runs until 11 July, with weekly three-hour classes to be held at Leopold Community Hub.
Several field trips to significant properties and locations are also on the itinerary.

Expert local facilitator Rustem Upton will lead the program, with support from specialist guest presenters and volunteer group showcases.

Applications are now being taken at www.outdoorsvictoria.org.au/nature-stewards

. . .

The program is open to anyone over the age of 18, however preference will be given to those who live in Greater Geelong. It is best suited to people with little or no formal environmental education, who are either involved with local groups or want to explore environmental volunteering opportunities.

Taking inspiration from well-established Master Naturalist programs in the United States of America, Nature Stewards began last year in the City of Melbourne and City of Melton. The first cohort of graduates have gone on to join or start local volunteer groups, begin environmental business ventures or pursue further study.

Greater Geelong will be the first Victorian regional municipality to offer the program.
The City will also provide an outline of environmental volunteering opportunities at the Geelong Nature Forum. The forum is being held at the National Wool Museum on Saturday 28 March 2020.

For more information on the Geelong Nature Forum, visit www.eventbrite.com.au

Greater Geelong Mayor Stephanie Asher said:
“Nature Stewards is a great way to give residents the confidence to join and lead environmental protection efforts in our local community.There are huge environmental and social benefits in encouraging more people to get outdoors and to contribute to conservation activities – either in public reserves or on private property.”

Cr Eddy Kontelj, Chair, Environment portfolio:
“I encourage residents with an interest in the environment to consider joining Geelong’s first Nature Stewards program. You will learn more about local ecosystems and natural places, meet like-minded people and learn about how you can get involved with local groups doing great work on the ground.”

→ Read the biography of Rustem

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Auroro: “When the last rivers are poisoned, you cannot eat money…”

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Natural contaminant threat to drinking water from groundwater

Climate change and urbanisation are set to threaten groundwater drinking water quality, new research from UNSW Sydney shows.

More than half of the world’s population faces a looming threat to the quality and availability of their drinking water because climate change and urbanisation are expected to cause an increase in groundwater organic carbon, a new UNSW study has found.

The research, published in Nature Communications overnight, examined the largest global dataset of 9404 published and unpublished groundwater dissolved organic carbon (DOC) concentrations from aquifers in 32 countries across six continents. DOC is a naturally occurring component of groundwater, but the higher its concentration, the more difficult and expensive it is to make groundwater drinkable.

In Australia, groundwater is widely used as the main source of drinking water for many cities and towns.

Lead author Dr Liza McDonough, of the Connected Waters Initiative Research Centre at UNSW, said the study forecasted elevated DOC concentrations because of projected changes in temperature and rainfall due to climate change, as well as increased urbanisation.

“We identified groundwater DOC concentration increases of up to 45 per cent, largely because of increased temperatures in the wettest quarter of the year – for example, in a number of south-eastern states in the United States. We predict increases in DOC in these locations could increase water costs for a family of four by US$134 per year,” Dr McDonough said.

“Other areas such as eastern China, India and parts of Africa already experience severe groundwater contamination issues. These may be further compounded, particularly in south-eastern China, by groundwater DOC increases associated with large predicted increases in temperature in the wettest quarter of the year by 2050.

“Generally, we expect urbanisation to increase groundwater DOC concentrations by up to 19 per cent, compared to agricultural or natural land use, likely as the result of contamination – for example, through leaking septic and sewer systems.”

The research, a collaboration between UNSW, the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO), Southern Cross University, British Geological Survey, and the University of Bradford, found four major contributing factors to groundwater DOC levels: climate, land use, inorganic chemistry and aquifer age.

Health threat
Dr McDonough said increased groundwater DOC, whether naturally occurring or due to contamination, also posed a threat to human health. “Groundwater is Earth’s largest source of freshwater and provides essential drinking water for more than 50 per cent of the world’s population,” she said. “But, because most health impacts caused by DOC are related to the formation of by-products of water treatment chlorination and depend on concentrations of other water chemical parameters, the World Health Organization and many countries – including Australia – do not regulate DOC concentrations in drinking water directly.”

Dr McDonough said that while DOC is a naturally occurring, key element of groundwater it could combine with, and transport, potentially dangerous heavy metals otherwise bound to rocks and sediment where groundwater occurs. “This is a concern when, for example, more than 100,000 lifetime cancer cases in the United States alone can be attributed to drinking water contaminants,” she said.

Water treatment costs to rise
Dr McDonough said it was important to understand what caused high DOC concentrations in groundwater. “An increase in groundwater DOC concentration impacts the ability and therefore cost to make groundwater drinkable,” she said.

“For example, we projected a 16 per cent increase in annual household water costs in some parts of the United States because of rising water treatment costs – due to the need to implement additional water treatment measures to remove increased DOC concentrations.

“The decrease in groundwater quality and substantial increase in water treatment costs will also compound existing constraints on groundwater resources, including availability.”

Wet vs arid climates
Dr McDonough said the impacts on groundwater DOC levels from climate change and urbanisation, while likely to occur globally, differed by geography and climate. “Our research found that in arid climates, groundwater DOC concentrations increased with higher rainfall because microbes can better break down organic matter, such as leaves, under warm and increasingly wet conditions,” she said.

“Increased temperatures in arid environments, however, reduced groundwater DOC concentrations because when conditions are too hot and dry, vegetation and organic matter sources are limited. “By contrast, increased rain in warm and wet environments decreased groundwater DOC concentrations because heavy rainfall dilutes the DOC in groundwater.”

Water treatment solutions
Dr McDonough said she looked forward to conducting further research to determine the best water treatment options for areas where groundwater DOC concentrations are anticipated to increase.

“Our next step is to investigate how the character of DOC changes when you have different aquifer minerals, because some types of organic matter can stick to certain mineral surfaces and ultimately reduce this type of organic matter remaining in the water,” she said. “This will help provide guidance on the most suitable water treatment options in areas where DOC concentrations are expected to increase.”

→ Read the full research paper in Nature Communications

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Plant Power Day advertisement from the Grill’d burgerbar chain:

“Here’s your hall pass to cheat on meat. Plant Power Day, a day dedicated to putting veggies and plant-based options first, is happening on Saturday 7 March 2020. So, we’re here with options, because making the switch doesn’t need to mean compromising taste.”


#PowerToThePlant #PlantPowerDay

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We at The Sustainable Hour would like to pay our respect to the traditional custodians of the land on which we are broadcasting, the Wathaurong People, and pay our respect to their elders, past, present and future.

The traditional owners lived in harmony with the environment and with the climate for hundreds of generations. It is not clear – yet – that as European settlers we have demonstrated that we can live in harmony for hundreds of generations, but it is clear that we can learn from the indigenous, traditional owners of this land.

When we talk about the future, it means extending our respect to those children not yet born, the generations of the future – remembering the old saying that…

The decisions currently being made around Australia to ignore climate change are being made by those who won’t be around by the time the worst effects hit home. How utterly disgusting, disrespectful and unfair is that?

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The Sustainable Hour
The Sustainable Hour
Anthony Gleeson, Colin Mockett, Mik Aidt

Sharing solutions that make the climate safer and our cities more liveable