Particularly in urban cities and settlements, South Australia should move away from using a ‘predict and respond’ model of adaptation and focus its attention on a ‘monitor and respond’ model that is focused on the collection and analysis of data over time.
The following points are relevant:
- Currently the sea continues to rise at a uniform rate, and at this stage the escalation in rate is not expected to occur until the middle of this century.
- A SEAFRAME gauge should be reinstalled at Port Stanvac to extend the data log for decades to come.
- Digital baselines are currently being captured from which to monitor change over time.
- The emphasis in adaptation work should be in collecting and analysing data.
- The community is likely to welcome the opportunity to be involved.
- Strategies to be developed for adaptation should be structured so that they operate at a fine-grained scale, but also so that they are uniformly applied across the state.
Nowhere is the irony of the emphasis on projections rather than on monitoring to make the case for change more profound than in the removal of the state-of-the-art sea level rise monitoring machine that we had at Port Stanvac to make way for a shiny new desalination plant.
At this point I need to confirm that I am not against shoring up water security, and I am sure that sometime in the future we will stand around water coolers in the middle of the next drought and raise our recyclable cups in salute to the state government who had the foresight to install it. The point here is to note that large expenditure was outlaid based on projections that it would never rain enough again to fill our dams, only for this to be followed by 2 years of record falls that flooded large parts of Queensland and NSW.
Decisions were made to install desalination plants around the country based on what was a normal drought cycle within the Australian climate.
From a monitoring point of view, the irony is that we did have a ‘canary in the coalmine’, or more accurately, perched on the end of the Port Stanvac jetty. It had quietly measured the rate of sea level rise in Gulf St Vincent for 18 years. It is generally accepted that we need 20 years of baseline data before we can make any assertions about future trends. Since removal in 2010 we have lost 8 years of valuable data in the most populated region of South Australia. We also now have a gap in the monitoring record from which to advocate for real change.
We should find a way to reinstate the gauge as a top priority. And then as a community we should roll up our sleeves and begin the process of collecting and analysing data, and monitoring change over time.