I had hoped that by this time, I could move on to a discussion of some ideas I have for the development of remote communities and the activities and lifestyle they could support. However, my brand new computer crashed rather horribly (the SMART technology in some WD disk drives is not so smart!) and I had to await a major disk replacement. This, of course, involved a lot of work on my part; firstly, to rescue all of my data from the old disk and secondly, to lay it all out on the new disk. This delay, while annoying, had a very useful side-effect, in that the Queensland and Victorian floods all occurred before I could write anything for the blog and these phenomena have had a considerable impact on some of the things I would like to have talked about.
On 13th January, The Age contained an article by Professor Linlin Ge from the UNSW School Of Surveying and Spatial Information Systems. In it, he suggested that we needed a satellite-based observation system (“An Eye In The Sky”, he called it) to observe weather patterns and give early warning of rainfall, winds or fires which would cause significant damage to infrastructure and human activitiy. This accords very well with the suggestions made in this blog for a grid-based information system. If the information received by this satellite was identified by the grid elements it was taken from, analysis could be undertaken to compute the future consequences of the phenomena, both for the elements containing the data and those in the path of the water, wind or fire. Knowing the land usage for the grids might also allow the financial and social consequences to be computed.
The article may be read at this reference:
The influence of dams on the Queensland flooding was discussed at some length. In particular, the delay in releasing water from the Wivenhoe Dam until it was absolutely necessary to safeguard its structural integrity was severely criticized. The view was that the progressive release of water in advance of the flood would have resulted in less severe peaks. This is true, but it seems to me that the managers of the dam were left between a rock and a hard place. Given that we are just now emerging from one of the worst droughts on record and the prime reason for constructing the dam was to store water for public use, the early release of water would have been similarly criticized if it was found afterwards that it was unnecessary. This could not have been forecasted in advance.
Another line of discussion was whether more large dams should be built. The difficulties which were pointed to included the lack of suitable sites, the costs and the times to completion. However, I would suggest that there is a role here for the smaller dams which I discussed briefly in an earlier post. These would have little impact on the agricultural production capacity of the area, because they could be covered with concrete roofs, which in turn would carry topsoil and drainage aggregate, thus allowing some type of profitable activitiy of a plantation nature. Suppose that the ground under the dams was excavated to some convenient depth (the roof would require taller columns, no doubt) and levees were built around them. The volume in the pit would be used for normal water supply and limited by a release pipe within the levee. When heavy rainfall occurs, a valve in the release pipe is closed and water in the dam is captured until it overflows the levee. A network of such dams offers much more refined control over flood waters and they can be built and brought into service progressively at optimal cost.
Because the assimilation of a larger population requires many new communities out in the bush, I would have hoped by this time to have got into some discussion about a topic of particular interest to me – the rapid and economical construction of buildings suitable for the warm temperatures and arid conditions found over most of Australia’s hinterland. However, the extra-ordinarily intense flooding experienced in Queensland (and to a lesser extent in Victoria) suggests that more thought needs to be given to structural matters and waterproofing of the building shell – so this discussion must wait for another day.