Because Greenies go ballistic at plans to build dams, politicians are very slow to build them. So we have water shortages. And the very expensive "solution" to that -- promoted by the government -- is for each house to have its own rainwater tank. Talk about "drought" below is a coverup. It rains every couple of days where I live -- which must be the world's strangest "drought" -- but we still have severe restrictions on water usage and subsidies for people to buy household tanks. But the cost of the tanks is not the only problem:
Backyard water tanks, a key weapon for Australian households in the battle against drought and climate change, may prove a double-edged sword if they help the mosquito that spreads dengue fever to penetrate deep into southern and inland Australia. Melbourne researchers who set out to measure how much further the dengue mosquito might spread as the climate heats up discovered that water hoarding by households was likely to prove a much bigger help to the insect. The species responsible for spreading dengue in Australia, Aedes aegypti, is largely confined to Townsville, Cairns and Queensland's far north, where two outbreaks of dengue are continuing to worsen.
There have now been 198 confirmed cases of dengue fever in Cairns and 21 in Townsville, according to figures released last night. The Townsville outbreak is particularly alarming because two of the four types of dengue are circulating simultaneously, raising the risk that someone will suffer a potentially fatal second infection.
Scientists from Melbourne University say climate change and evolutionary adaptation are making more of Australia habitable for the insect, but human behaviours may be smoothing the mosquito's path even more. "While we predict that climate change will directly increase habitat suitability throughout much of Australia, the potential indirect impact of changed water storage practices by humans in response to drought may have a greater effect," the authors write.
Lead researcher and zoology lecturer Michael Kearney said there had been a "dramatic increase" in domestic rainwater storage in response to drought. "Water tanks and other water storage vessels, such as modified wheelie bins, are potential breeding sites for this disease-bearing mosquito," Dr Kearney said. "Without due water-storage hygiene, this indirect effect of climate change via human adaptation could dramatically re-expand the mosquito's range." Dr Kearney said the findings did not mean water tanks should be avoided. Instead, it was important for householders to realise the tanks should be properly sealed to prevent mosquito access, which meant avoiding improvised or badly made tanks and opting for versions that met Australian standards. "Australian-standard water tanks have brass mesh protecting the inlet and outlet valves, which are less likely to degrade," he said.
About 100 years ago, Aedes aegypti was more widespread, being found in Darwin and Broome, along the east coast as far south as Sydney, inland to Bourke and even in Perth. Its range diminished through the last decades of the 20th century for reasons not well understood, but Dr Kearney said his team's work suggested the removal of old galvanised water tanks and installation of town water supplies may have helped.
The invention of insecticides and even lawnmowers may also have played a part by encouraging householders to keep gardens under better control and to clear away discarded pots and other receptacles that could provide the mosquito with a place to lay eggs.
Queensland Institute of Medical Research's Tim Hurst has studied water storage in Brisbane households and how this might affect mosquito breeding. "About 50 per cent of the houses we surveyed have rainwater tanks, but about 30 per cent of those are collecting water in other containers -- such as buckets and wheelie bins," he said. [You would do that too if you were forbidden by law to water your garden]
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