Are rainwater tanks useful in Townsville?

Townsville’s ongoing drought has encouraged many of us, especially the keen gardeners, to think seriously about bores, grey water systems and rainwater tanks. This post attempts to arrive at a credible answer to the first question we must ask about tanks: are they even useful?

We have been hearing from two schools of thought on the question for as long as we have been in Townsville, more than 25 years: “Yes, of course!” and “No! The dry season is so long and so dry that no tank will last through it.” One group must be wrong, Continue reading “Are rainwater tanks useful in Townsville?”

Townsville’s 2017 rainfall: no relief from dry conditions

As most of us have been expecting for a while now, Townsville’s 2017 rainfall total was on the low side. The BOM’s raw figures show that we had 791 mm for the year, well below our nominal average of 1135 mm.

I say “nominal” average because, as I said here almost two years ago, an average year is not normal: we get dry years (and 2017 is one of them) or wet years (e.g. 2007 – 2012) but rarely get a total resembling the average. Our 2016 total was 951 mm, which is close to average but still on the low side; adding these two years on to the end of the list of rainfall totals shows that we haven’t yet broken out of the succession of dry years which began in 2013.

What this has meant for our water supply is an ongoing crisis, with Ross Dam hovering around 15% of capacity most of the year, water restrictions at Level 3, and pumping from the Burdekin Dam always imminent even if not always under way. Our weak 2016-17 Wet hardly lifted the dam levels at all but an unseasonal May downpour (167 mm)  pushed the dam above 20% for the first time since August 2016.

Playing with the data so freely available online is fun, if sobering, and will show what’s going on better than another hundred words of text, so here’s the link to Townsville City Council’s dam levels page.

What the historical data can’t show, of course, is whether we’re going to get any decent rain in the coming months. Digging into the BOM climate outlook pages shows that they give us a 75% change of 300-400 mm in the next three months (which isn’t as much as we would like) but haven’t got a great deal of confidence in the accuracy of their prediction. “Wait and see” is all we can do.

Negotiating Christmas

Christmas can be a difficult time for anyone wishing to live ethically without offending family and friends by appearing to reject their goodwill. The frenzy of gift-giving is a big issue. On the one hand, Christmas has been commercialised beyond belief, becoming yet another pretext for blatantly wasteful over-consumption; on the other, giving is always a good thing (and receiving can be nice, too). The religious aspect may also be problematic, since the endless barrage of sentimentalised carols and nativity scenes is irrelevant at best, and may be oppressive, for atheists or members of non-Christian faith communities. And then there’s the obligatory socialising with co-workers, members of your sporting club, or those members of your extended family whom you do your best to avoid during the year. It has its good side but enough is enough, surely?

We can’t do much, individually, about the superfluity of Christianity or conviviality but we can certainly do something about the material waste. Continue reading “Negotiating Christmas”

Strand Ephemera 2017

Townsville’s winter is a busy time for all sorts of open air events because the weather is so reliably beautiful. The fact that tourist numbers are up, as Southerners escape their own not-so-nice winter weather, doesn’t hurt either. Strand Ephemera, occurring in odd-numbered years since 2001, is one of the highlights. (I posted articles on the 2011 and 2013 events but missed out on 2015.)

This year’s event closed last Sunday. The ‘People’s Choice’ winner was also my own favourite because it ticked so many boxes – appropriate to the site and to the notion of ‘ephemera’, saying something important (i.e., ‘don’t trash our oceans’) without letting the message overwhelm the art, collaborative and local. Here it is:

Strand Ephemera 2017
Marion Gaemers and Lynnette Griffiths: Ancyent Marinere … are those her sails?

The sails were even more dramatic at night Continue reading “Strand Ephemera 2017”

Eco-Fiesta 2017

This year’s Eco-Fiesta, a few days ago, was much like those of previous years: a lovely day in the park with all sorts of loosely ‘greenie’ and ‘alternative’ people and organisations.  I wrote enough about the 2014 and 2013 events that I shouldn’t need to present an overview this time, so I will dive straight in to the things which caught my attention.

Wildlife Queensland had a well-staffed stall featuring a great gallery of flying fox photos. These animals get a bad press and need all the support they can get.

North Queensland Regional Plan had a very boring stall (I’m sorry, but it’s true!) which tried to engage visitors in planning for our region, the local government areas of Charters Towers, Burdekin Shire, Hinchinbrook Shire and Townsville. It’s a state government initiative and welcomes online input here. I told them about our declining rainfall. What’s your concern?

The Beekeepers had their usual displays of honey and hives, Continue reading “Eco-Fiesta 2017”