Ashleigh Quick writes: There is a lot more to the water issue than meets the eye. Remember when the Hay plain was… a plain? Now it’s irrigated through hundreds of kilometres of open ditch trenches. Take a summer drive along the towns of the Murray through northern Victoria, see how much water is pumped onto parks and gardens during the heat of a 40 degree day. Look at the more km of open trenches throughout Victoria and NSW. Marvel at the overhead irrigation and sprinklers being used near Mildura. Compare with the South Australian side of the border – open trenches were converted to pipes many years ago – you will really struggle to find any overhead sprinklers or open trenches in SA. Micro-jet, drippers, localised mini-sprinklers are very common. All this is from observation during various road trips over the last few years, not by going out to look for it, just finding these things by accident. We have a long, long, long way to go to make agricultural use more efficient. We could, without trying too hard, grow the same crops for about half the irrigation water. It needs to be done soon.

Peer Lindholdt writes: People get fined for watering their gardens or washing their cars. Who fines industry for its careless overuse of water, and why does the driest continent on earth grow rice and cotton? Maybe you could ask Malcolm for me?

I Weatherlake writes: If the Bracks government gets its way and gets a million extra immigrants for Melbourne and Victoria this will increase water consumption by about 300 Olympic pools per day. Surely this is a material concern when discussing the water crisis.

Doug Clifford writes: Re. “Water wars: Tales from Australian suburbia” (yesterday, item 4). Graham wrote: “The answer to your questions is NO. Here in Perth, where water restrictions are a fact of life too, there is no water militancy. I think this is a Crikey beat-up. I was hoping Crikey might be above this sort of thing. Very tabloid of you.” The reason we have less water vigilantism in Perth, is that, so far, water restrictions here are the “softest” of all the mainland capitals. One may still water with a hand-held hose at any time of the day, and reticulation systems may be used twice a week (depending on the last digit of one’s street address), at any time from midnight to 09:00 and from 18:00 to midnight on that day. In addition, a reasonable bounty of sub-surface water allows many on the coastal plain to have their own bores, which are not metered, and can be used ad libitum. Pools and spas can still be filled, and new home owners are allowed to establish gardens. Profligate use, such as washing cars, is discouraged by the Water Authority of WA, but not (yet) proscribed. More severe restrictions, and the “dobbing-in” will begin.

Andrew Decker writes: Oh, yeah! Let’s dob in a neighbour, dob in a stranger, smooch-up to authority! That’s the Australian way, isn’t it? Doing it any other way would be just so “un-Australian”. And to think this used to be such a great country. What happened with its people? There’s nothing new with the water restrictions: is anyone remember the little ditty from the 70s “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down”? We survived that without getting into each other’s face and surreptitiously calling the water-Gestapo mostly to take revenge on some real or imagined previous slight. Instead of blaming each other, all of us should blame our politicians – there is no foresight, no drive to do anything about this issue, except ordering the populace around. As it is a well accepted, the Snowy for example couldn’t happen today – the shortsighted, over-lobbied toadies in our parliaments wouldn’t allow it. Also, Australia isn’t in drought, only part of it; matter of fact up North they have more water than they can handle. What about the examples of Dubai and Israel and others? They were/are able to create gardens out of the desert. Will Australia be known that she was able to create desert out of a garden? There are so many things that could be done to alleviate this problem – dobbing each other in surely shouldn’t be one.

Tim Hollo writes: The water wars are fascinating in their implications, but not hard to explain. It’s a classic “social dilemma” process – when an individual, by doing good for the whole community, loses personal benefits relative to those who don’t do good. At first, the “early adopters” are ridiculed. Then, when it reaches a tipping point, it’s the “freeloaders” who are slammed. Eventually, you win. The reason I say its implications are fascinating is that this is the first time in my knowledge that there has been such a tremendous tip on an environmental issue. Recycling doesn’t come close. So water sets a precedent. The next social dilemma tipping point that is already approaching will be when neighbours check if you’ve left your lights on, or bag you out for having your air conditioner turned up too high. Climate change encompasses water issues and so much more. It’ll be fascinating to see how the social dilemma plays out there when the tipping point arrives.

Matt Hardin writes: Max de Mestre-Allen and David Murtagh (yesterday, comments) seem to have some insight into David Hicks’s circumstances that the rest of us don’t. He has not been found guilty of anything. As far as I am aware he was arrested at a bus stop on the basis of the information of informants (I am prepared to be corrected on this). Being an idiot and associating with bad people does not make you liable to five years of solitary confinement. Try the man, ascertain guilt or not and award a sentence. It is that simple. If he is a prisoner of war as Prof. Flint suggests then that war is over, the Taliban government in Afghanistan has been toppled and it is time to repatriate the prisoners. The war on terror was sold as a war to fight for our way of life, the longer people remain untried in solitary confinement the more hollow that rhetoric.

Tony Barrell writes: David Murtagh writes that David Hicks got what he deserves. For what? Whatever it was, it hasn’t been tested in a court of law and until he’s found guilty as charged what right have Crikey correspondents banging the table like a claque of old blimps? He may well turn out to be guilty of something, but until he is, call off the dogs.

Ilse Scheepers writes: David Murtagh writes of David Hicks “playing the game” of a Boys Own Adventure and says it’s just “tough” that he is now forced to deal with the consequences. I find it very unsettling that some people are so cheerfully uncompassionate towards someone whose case is surrounded by so many dubious “facts” and so much misinformation. The time to rejoice about the punishment of a lawbreaker (if there is one) is when they have been tried and sentenced by an impartial court which is open and accountable. The treatment of Hicks up to this point does not fill me with confidence that the justice we’d all expect to be extended to us will be available to him.

Terry Kidd writes: Re. Peter Beattie’s debt binge. Does the Courier-Mail, Queensland’s only major newspaper, give Peter Beattie’s government a free ride by failing to fully inform the public? I say “yes” because during the recent election campaign the newspaper printed very little criticism of Peter Beattie or Labour and today it has printed a story about the budget review but has totally failed to mention the level of borrowings/debt that Peter Beattie’s government will enter into. Who keeps the b-stards honest if the Opposition can’t and our only newspaper won’t?

Philip Carman writes: Re. “Time to deregulate trading hours out West” (yesterday, item 20). God save us from “retail experts” like Rob Lake. (What exactly is a retail expert? – Is it someone who shops a hell of a lot – or is it just someone who thinks they know best how other people should shop?) And exactly which part of NO don’t people like him understand? Perhaps being like everyone else isn’t actually the right way to go or maybe little hick towns like Perth just don’t have a clue, but sometimes, even in marketing, you just have to accept the fact that NO means NO. I wonder what Rob’s wife’s reaction would be if when asked her if she was interested in (say for example) …s-x, with him, and she said “no, thankyou” and then Rob just went ahead and had his way with her anyway? I hope (and I’m sure) he wouldn’t persist against her will, but if he did, he would deserve locking up! Get over it Rob! We don’t want it. When we do you’ll the first to know. The same applies to Daylight Saving – which is driving people over here nuts. We already had plenty of sun, thanks very much, but our dumb pollies thought they could create a diversion from their appallingly poor governance. It too will backfire, just as any more attempts to force extended retail hours will backfire. Airhead shopaholics notwithstanding, we prefer some family time rather than shopping mall time!

Paul Clifton writes: Christian Kerr’s assertions that anyone with “left liberal voices” (Terror’s friends flicked from Town Hall – yesterday, item 7) and the “latte left” (Democracy, Chavez style – yesterday, item 7) are automatically anti-American and (somehow) apologists for every crackpot government or anti-democratic regime around, is not the sort of cheap journalism I expect for my Crikey dollar. It’s baseless, rude, slimy and obviously written with the sort of smug smirk that would make Peter Costello proud. It belongs in the pages of one of our cr-p daily newspapers, among the lap dogs, apologists for war and ignorers of the threats to democracy. It’s just plain cr-p and does little to give me confidence in Crikey as a balanced and reasoned information source. Oh, and that sad old line about “latte drinking lefties” is well and truly passed its use-by date. I drink tea, thank you very much. Earl Grey (but I voted for the republic).

Kate McDonald writes: “Terror’s friends flicked from Town Hall” and “Hugo Chavez, the latest love of the latte left?” Come on, Christian, you are just getting silly now. Having a ridiculously semantic debate over the influence of Catholic philosophy is one thing, but outright expressions of complete idiocy are another. Perhaps you might consider changing your name to Paul Sheehan? Seems to work for him.

Christian Kerr writes: I live in a parallel universe (yesterday, comments)? What parallel universe do the defenders of Club of Rome’s hysteria inhabit? How do they get their Crikey? After all, The Limits of Growth told us that zinc, gold, tin, copper, oil and natural gas would be completely exhausted in 1992. How do they live? How are they even alive? Their sage Paul Ehrlich infamously warned in The Population Bomb “The battle to feed all humanity is over. In the 1970s the world will undergo famines; hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now”. He even went so far as to claim in an article to mark the first Earth Day back in 1970 in The Progressive magazine that four billion people would starve to death between 1980 and 1989, including 65 million Americans. So much for the Club of Rome’s credibility. And their parallel universe! What a miserable place it must be.

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Peter Fray

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