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Hot Water

Sue had always owned a four-wheel drive. In her words, the ideal vehicle for the rough and tumble of driving the kids to school. But today it wasn't its usual pristine self. Mud-splattered, as if for the first time in its life it had gone off-road.

"It's your blasted desalination scheme," Sue said to Kathy, gesturing at the dirt.

"It's not mine," Kathy said. "It's the Commonwealth's."

"You were in favour of it."

"I was initially. It seemed like a good idea. The Murrumbidgee irrigation area needs water. Our only spare water is in the sea. So build a solar powered desalination plant on the coast, then pump the water inland, using sustainable power options like wind and solar, then dump it in the river. Problem was, they didn't think it through."

"Too right they didn't. They didn't even know they had to pump it when the sun was shining, then store it until they needed it. But why store it here?"

"It's Commonwealth land. No need to fight the states."

"So first they tell us that it'll be a bit soggy underfoot. Then they jack up our houses, so they don't flood, then they start building levees that wipe out our backyards and block the roads. You'd think that they could make up their mind, not chuck good money after bad."

"There's lots of money because it's seen as a win-win option," Kathy said. "Keeps the farmers and the environmentalists happy. Though I'm not sure where the new fleet of white hovercraft to ferry the pollies to Parliament House is supposed to fit in."

"Okay. It gives me a swimming pool. But now they're saying we've got to move out. They're building a big dam wall around the whole city, so the water can go hundreds of metres deep." Sue pointed at a grey monolith linking two hills.

Kathy nodded. "They're building it, but they'll never fill it," she said.

"Why not? Have the pollies realised that it'll flood their Taj Mahal?"

"They don't care. That gives them an excuse to meet in Sydney. But the water's too expensive. By the time it's delivered, it's hundreds of dollars a litre. The farmers won't use it. They're going for dry land crops."

"Yeah, but they'll still fill the dam. Keep it as an investment. The higher the price the better. They'll probably roof the dam so it won't evaporate."

"That assumes there is any water."

Sue snorted.

"Where do you build a desalination plant?" Kathy asked.

"On the coast. Close to the water."

"And what's happening on the coast?"

"Rising sea level. But that's years away. They must have allowed for that. Built it high. Pump the seawater up."

"They did. Built it on a headland. But you see the news? What's happened down there."

"Big storm. Lots of erosion. Beaches washed away."

"It got the headland, too. The plant's got the whole Pacific Ocean to work on now, but it seems to have lost the urge."

Copyright D.W. Walker, 2014

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