To drought proof or to flood proof, that is the question!

Just few years ago, politicians talked about drought proofing this country. Not only did they talk, but they delivered: NSW Government went on and built a desalination plant at a cost of $3 billion to the public. Month or two after the plant opened, the skies opened up too, and the Warragamba Dam started to fill again. So much so, that the desal plant was never really needed to operate. The Dam is currently spilling.
Did we learn anything from this? Apparently not. We are now hearing calls to flood proof Australia.
After a long drought (and long forgotten by know) we had several very wet years, with severe and repeated flooding events, especially in South-East Queensland and Northern NSW: some of the very same regions that were severely affected by drought only few years ago.
Now that we drought proofed Australia, it is time to flood proof. We will again spend billions from the public coffers to build expensive infrastructure. Surely enough, once we are done flood proofing, a new drought will come in and we will be looking at more white elephants. We must be able to do better than that!

Author: Tiho Ancev

Tiho Ancev is a Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics in the School of Economics, University of Sydney. His main research areas are agricultural, environmental, natural resource and energy economics. Tiho’s main contributions have been in water economics and policy, economics of energy, economics of air pollution and climate change policies, and economics of precision agriculture and agricultural input use. He has published widely on these topics in top international peer reviewed journals. Tiho has led and contributed to national and international research projects in these research areas. He is currently the Managing Editor-in-Chief of the Australian Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics.