Local thoughts on food, water & energy security

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As we discussed, below are a few thoughts around the topics of water, food and energy.

1. Energy

Unfortunately there is no silver bullet when it comes to transitioning to a carbon constrained future. Although some will argue that there is no evidence of man made climate change, this is just one of the consequences associated with the increase of CO©ü within the atmosphere. The greater effect will be the acidification of the oceans and the associated breakdown of oceanographic food chains. This will be become more evident as we discuss food security.

There will need to be a suite of energy sources, including coal in the short term, and will be dependent on geographical locations. Fortunately for the The Bellarine  there is a large variety of energy sources available. Wind, tidal, waste to energy and PV solar are all viable small scale solutions, and with the Otway basin natural gas field and nearby Geothermal projects under development, the region could be self sufficient and even a net generator of energy. 

Nationally the creation of large scale solar thermal plant will be able to provide 24 hour/day base load power. Although this will require the will of both the people and politicians to make happen as it will be a large infrastructure investment.

2. Water

I think it may have been Mark Twain or WC Fields who said "Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fighting over." Although we may have plenty today and the water authorities are saying that they have enough for the next five years, this is based on us getting average rain fall over that period. The climate models are predicting that South Eastern Australia will be overall dryer over the next ten year. This is also born out by the current state of the Southern Oscillation Index that has been negative for the past three months and is continuing on that trend and other makers that indicate we are on the boundary of an El Nino event.

We need to learn from the Israelis and recycle water for multiple reuse purposes. This means cascading its use, drinking / eating, washing / showering, flushing, watering, and done on a small to medium scale within the home or local community. Pumping it all the way to the Water Reclamation Plant and back again is simply a waste of energy resources. This could easily be demonstrated within development projects, however what we see currently is multimillion dollar centralised ¡®A¡¯ class plants being built in order to return the water to the estates many kilometres away.

Water will become a rare commodity and although I have talked generally about its recycle use on a local small scale there is an opportunity on The Bellarine to take advantage of the Black Rock WRP which current has an average influent of 55ML/day.                                       A reuse strategy needs to be developed with community consultation to establish the best method of water use. This may require changes to crop locations and types to take best  advantage of the resource.

3. Food

Food security is linked directly to the two previous topics, however ensuring financially viable crop production is difficult when considering the price at the farm gate regardless of a plentiful water supply. As around the Werribee area, consideration should be given to vegetable growth production to take advantage of recycled water availability. Across the combined regions and access to Avalon Airport we should be able to be self sufficient for a large variety of vegetables and develop an export market.

I have attached a WHO report on food trends for your review. It talks about “the proteins derived from fish, crustaceans and molluscs account for between 13.8% and 16.5% of the animal protein intake of the human population”. The region has an opportunity to set up high value niche markets sending fresh and processed shellfish produce to Asia while again being self sufficient. Mussels, abalone and scallops are all native to the region and are ideal high value products. I have my original files from the preliminary concepts for scallop aquaculture that I would be happy to share.

World fisheries are in decline and an international cooperative is required to address this issue. Wild fish restocking by nations could be the answer. Free range fish? (I am not sure you can solve this on The Bellarine)

Here, however is my concern for the medium term viability of the ocean. The increased atmospheric CO©ü is being sequested into the worlds oceans (Daltons law of partial pressure). This is in turn altering the ocean chemistry thus increasing the acidity. The increased acidity is impairing the ability of calcifying organisms to develop shell and plate calcium carbonate structures. Research within this area is on going, however if the trend continues there will be a break in the food chain that will be devastating to ocean food production. The consequences of this situation has not yet been fully realised. This is the most compelling case for move quickly to a carbon constrained economy.

It’s not all doom and gloom there is plenty we can do. Work with like minded, passionate people to educate others and develop strategies and set direction for the region. A university base research and development town with niche businesses in high quality produce, biomedical engineering and specialty materials on the doorstep of an international airport would be a good place to start.

Talk soon,   Steve

 

PS:   All comments welcome

2 thoughts on “Local thoughts on food, water & energy security

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