Basin instinct

Jun 03, 2013

Lake Eyre, some 100 kilometres North of Adelaide, Australia, could become a thriving centre of bio-saline agriculture and trade and industry if an ambitious macro-engineering project were to be implemented.

The Australian outback is well known for being arid or semi-arid. The climate across the continent is dominated by a subtropical high-pressure belt that keeps about three-quarters of its more than 3 million square kilometres mostly dry. Lake Eyre receives just 125 millimetres of rainfall annually and average annual pan-evaporation is almost 4000 mm. The lake and surrounding area, the Lake Eyre Basin, is an area of more than 1 million square kilometres but a mere 60,000 people live there.

Now, Viorel Badescu of the Candida Oancea Institute, at the Polytechnic University of Bucharest, in Romania and colleagues there and in the USA, have suggested a macro-engineering project that couples anti-evaporation measures with an inexpensive water transport system could bring brackish water from the coast and keep it there, allowing biosaline agriculture to thrive and communities to expand in this vast region. Moreover, sunshine is abundant making photovoltaic energy production appropriate for powering the and for driving development.

The team points out that plans have been mooted periodically for more than 150 years to stimulate growth across this part of Australia, but none has yet met with sufficient enthusiasm to be implemented. The team suggests that the low cost of their approach and the adoption of non-traditional agriculture could be the turning point for the Lake Eyre Basin.

The team describes their plan thus: "Lake Eyre is gradually filled to a higher level by controlling evaporation and by pumping seawater from the nearby ocean using cheap tensioned textile tubes. Most of the necessary energy could be produced by photovoltaics, in a very attractive application without electricity storage requirements. Eventually, Eyre is to be lidded with a floating impermeable plastic cap or with buoyant hollow plastic balls that reduce evaporation."

"While Australia's decade-long drought seems to be reversing, freshwater supplies will always be limited in quantity on that vast continent," says team member Richard Cathcart of Geographos, based in Burbank, California. "So, biosaline agriculture is very likely to find increasing favour with farmers and because it would be necessary. Nature seems to have provided the perfect physiographic situation for our macro-project. More and more plants are being discovered to have the capability of adapting to saline-brackish water irrigation techniques," he adds.

Explore further: Threats loom for Australia's outback biodiversity

More information: Badescu, V. et al. (2013). Macro-engineering Australia's Lake Eyre with imported seawater, Int. J. Environment and Sustainable Development, 12 (3) 264-284.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Drought shrinks China's largest freshwater lake

Jan 05, 2012

China's largest freshwater lake has shrunk to its smallest size in years due to drought, state media and officials said Thursday, endangering the ecology in the area and fishermen's livelihoods.

Mini-submarines to gauge Lake Geneva pollution

Jun 14, 2011

Two mini-submarines that have filmed the wreckage of the doomed luxury cruise liner Titanic will dive into Lake Geneva to gauge its pollution levels, Swiss researchers said Tuesday.

Recommended for you

US delays decision on Keystone pipeline project

Apr 18, 2014

The United States announced Friday a fresh delay on a final decision regarding a controversial Canada to US oil pipeline, saying more time was needed to carry out a review.

New research on Earth's carbon budget

Apr 18, 2014

(Phys.org) —Results from a research project involving scientists from the Desert Research Institute have generated new findings surrounding some of the unknowns of changes in climate and the degree to which ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

China says massive area of its soil polluted

A huge area of China's soil covering more than twice the size of Spain is estimated to be polluted, the government said Thursday, announcing findings of a survey previously kept secret.

UN weather agency warns of 'El Nino' this year

The UN weather agency Tuesday warned there was a good chance of an "El Nino" climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean this year, bringing droughts and heavy rainfall to the rest of the world.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...