Is our collective memory so short that we don’t remember life under water restrictions?
Five years ago, when the decision was made to build the desalination plant, water cooler conversation invariably turned to our desperate lack of the wet stuff and the Victorian government seriously considered asking us to drink our own urine (treated, of course).
Victoria was in the grip of a “water crisis“.
Leaked government reports were naming and shaming the state’s biggest water users, from the Arts Centre to the Zoo.
Researchers were studying the socioeconomic impact of water restrictions on sports grounds.
There was talk of permanent water restrictions, diverting water from the already dying Murray River, drinking recycled sewerage or building new dams to catch the rain which no-one was sure would ever fall again.
People were criticising the state government for lacking a water policy and commentators were calling water the “number one state election issue“.
In 2007, then-premier Steve Bracks – and plenty of others – reckoned the desal plant was an absolute necessity.
This week, the tap was turned on, and journos were invited to go down to Wonthaggi and sample the freshly desalinated water.
While journos and voxpopped members of the public generally agreed that the water was tasty, their opinions of the desal plants were less savoury, focusing on the cost, the waste of resources and the politics behind its building.
Andrew Bolt on his blog describes it lying idle in the rain and boasts that he was right when he said the rain would come eventually.
But even the Bolter wrote in 2009 of “gardens left to die and ovals left to burn”, and “water restrictions now likely to last for years, if not forever”.
The only people who seem to remember the desperate situation the state was in are former premiers Steve Bracks and John Brumby – who understandably want to defend their decision-making – and letter writers to The Age.
It’s right to ask questions of a major project like this, but we need remember the context in which these decisions were made.