Why Isn’t Perth a Ghost Town Yet?

As parts of Australia’s east coast experience record low temperatures and Perth continues to experience healthy amounts of rainfall, I can’t help but remember the time in 2004 when Tim Flannery said that there was a ‘fair chance’ that Perth would become the 21st century’s first ghost metropolis – based on what appeared to be a two month, self-selected crash course in reading some stuff he found… and the subsequent soiling of his pants:

Climate change would diminish the environment of Sydney and its hinterland, and it only had to look to Perth’s experience.

“I think there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century’s first ghost metropolis,” Dr Flannery said. “It’s whole primary production is in dire straits and the eastern states are only 30 years behind.”

He said climate change tended to move in steps. In 1976, when the first step occurred, the south-western corner of Western Australia lost 20 per cent of its rainfall, and its catchment fell from 340 gigalitres to 111 gigalitres. The average is now 160 gigalitres. In 1998, when the second step occurred, the world experienced the worst El Nino effect and the death of 17 per cent of its coral reefs. South-eastern Australia was hit by drought .

Dr Flannery said he had spent the past two months reading “everything I can get my hands on” about climate change, and had been horrified by what he had learnt.

Three years later in 2007, Flannery was at it again, doubling down on his prediction – albeit not quite as confidently this time around – because, apparently, desalination plants:

AUSTRALIAN of the Year Tim Flannery is sticking by his warning that Perth could become the first ghost metropolis of the 21st century.

But the outspoken environmental scientist says it’s our addiction to coal, not just water, that is jeopardising our future.

[TMR: using this logic, I guess this also means that I’m addicted to breathing air. On reflection, I have to admit that I’m rather frivolous with my consumption of it. Are there any meetings I can go to for this?]

Dr Flannery said he originally made the dire prediction about Perth based on its scarce water supply.

“When I said Perth could become the first ghost metropolis, that was true, but the Government acted and got a desalination plant going,” he said. “The city could have run out of water if it wasn’t for the desal plant.”

[TMR: let’s hold that thought…]

While the immediate crisis is over, Dr Flannery said water worries would continue to plague southern WA more than other parts of Australia.

He said there were no signs that Perth’s once-abundant winter rainfall would return any time soon…

Ah yes, desalination plants. You know, the same as the ones being ‘used’ in VictoriaNew South Wales and, of course, South Australia. (NB: Tasmania probably would have gotten involved too if it didn’t have a far more entertaining way to waste water, money, time and a gas power station simultaneously).

Anyway, as for that Perth ‘running out of water’ thing, given that:

  • Perth’s current annual water consumption is about 300 million cubic metres;
  • 150 billion cubic metres (i.e. groundwater supply) divided by 300 million cubic metres (annual demand) equals about 500 years of supply,

I think it’s safe to say that Tim’s ghost town prediction was a big steaming load of hooey and that any one or more of the following must have been true:

  • Flannery knew this at the time and deliberately tried to [insert verb of your choice] with people;
  • Flannery knew this at the time and deliberately [insert verb of your choice] to people;
  • Flannery read the wrong stuff; and
  • Flannery’s reading, comprehension and intelligence levels were lower than his views on Perth’s water levels at the time.

By 2011, the ABC decided to join the ‘Perth’s gonna die’ party by running a story on how Perth was ‘set to become the world’s first Ghost City’ – based solely on the passing opinion of an unnamed Fox News ‘anchor’ at the time:

According to some predictions, Perth property prices could be worthless in the future if Perth becomes the world’s first ‘Ghost City’.

[TMR: seriously, what kind of brainless bullsh- inane statement is this? It’s about as insightful as saying ‘Bill’s life could cease to continue if his heart stops beating’]

Perth is set to become the world’s first ‘Ghost City’ according to a long-term weather forecaster and a news anchor.

The doomsday forecast for Western Australia’s capital was made on FOX News in the United States.

During an interview a FOX News anchor interpreted a global climate forecast map with drastic consequences for Sandgropers.

“It seems as though Perth, Australia, is a real cautionary story for us. Tell us what’s happening in Perth and how Perth could become what’s called a ghost city?” asked the news anchor.

“I’m reading here that unless drastic action is taken, Perth could become the world’s first ghost city – a modern metropolis abandoned by the 1.7 million people there for lack of water,” she said.

The interviewee, US senior climate forecaster and drought expert Ed O’Lenic, was slightly more restrained when describing the future of our city.

“Water is becoming an increasing issue in the city of Perth and there is some concern about the sustainability of the city.” Mr O’Lenic said.

“Droughts tend to build over a relatively long period of time, it takes months, seasons and even years for a drought to develop; and they’re always changing.”

The gloomy prediction seems far-fetched, especially as Rottnest Island was receiving its highest recorded rainfall figure for July.

Bureau of Meteorology Forecaster John Relf said a cloud band hovered over Rottnest Island dumping 32.2 millimeteres in half an hour and 66.8mm in a 24 hour period.

“This was a once in a 50, or even 100 year event,” he said.

[TMR: if Rottnest getting 66.8mm of rain in a 24 hour period is a once in 50-100 year event, could someone please tell me what Rottnest getting 142mm in a 24 hour period is (January 2018)? Or 154.7mm (June 1984)? Or 93.8mm (February 2017). Thank you.]

However, Perth missed out on much of the rain recording only 4.2mm in the same period.

“Perth has a long way to go to reach the July average,” Mr Relf said. “Perth’s only had 75.6mm and we only have a week or so to get to the average of 169.7mm.”

After Perth’s record breaking heatwave, low dam levels and more dry conditions predicted – the crazy idea of a creeping drought may not be so crazy after all.

As for that nuisance called reality, let’s fast forward to July 2018 and see how, yet again, it’s stubbornly refusing to co-operate with the global warming agenda:

Rainfall (2018 figures current to 17 July 2018):



Dam levels (2018 figures current to 17 July 2018):


Of course, all someone has to do now is tell WA’s Water Corporation about this ‘breaking news’:


(Screenshot taken on 17 July 2018)

Declining rainfall eh? I can only guess that they must have ‘homogenised’ the above data before reaching that conclusion.

As for Flannery, how he can show his face in public these days is simply beyond me. Regardless, when it comes to ghost towns, I’d much rather listen to The Specials…



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30 Responses to Why Isn’t Perth a Ghost Town Yet?

  1. MPH says:

    Perth, like many cities, doesn’t have a water shortage – it had an infrastructure shortage. But of course the loons in government decide it should be residential consumers who cut back and suffer, even when they use a small fraction of total water and industry are the big consumers…

  2. MPH says:

    Has an infrastructure shortage, not had… Whoops

  3. stackja says:

    ALP again.

  4. Habib says:

    The Achey Breaky Collective still have Flannels as their go-to prophet o’doom. Sums up both parties really.

  5. Robbo says:

    Flannery is a fool and only those who are even more foolish would give him the time of day. Cue in the ABC, Fairfax, The Guardian et al.

  6. Infidel Tiger says:

    It would be a ghost town but we are now all too poor to move.

  7. Antipodean says:

    This is a constant bugbear of mine. I had a recent colourful online exchange with some bot from the WA Water Corporation challenging the meme of Perth’s drying climate, the need for more water restrictions, blah, blah. Anyhoo, the critical error that is made by Water Corp and to a lesser extent this article is that you really need to examine the rainfall for the catchment areas east and south of Perth. BoM have site data available for Dwellingup for instance that shows annual rainfall amounts have been fairly consistent over a long time period and usually total around 1 metre per annum. Compare this with the sharply declining runoff rates in the catchment.

    So what’s going on?

    Catchment vegetation management was all but abandoned on the mid 70’s, pretty much the same time that you see the commencement of steep decline in runoffs.

  8. H B Bear says:

    Without the de-sal plants Perth would either be stuffed or have to make some politically very difficult decisions around the rate of groundwater pumping. The WA Water Corporation is one of the few government departments that has actually done a half decent job of long term planning for Perth’s water future.

    While it won’t be a popular view here, de-sal plants and windmill electricity aren’t the worst mix. They are capable of absorbing large amounts of non-time critical electricity when the wind blows and do not need to run every day if the wind is not blowing. Sure the electricity is more expensive than coal but if you must have windmills this isn’t a bad use for them.

    Flim Flan is just another East Coast IYI who should be at the School of Wrongology.

  9. thefrolickingmole says:

    Flim Flannery is a dog and pony man able to spin on a 5 cent piece.

    I got him on talkback one day and hit him with essentially “The math says there is no way to avoid warming, how can you argue with math”?
    He flibbertigibbeted about hope & change and how wonderful things would be and how we should not give up for 5 minutes without ever venturing near the question.

  10. EvilElvis says:

    While it won’t be a popular view here, de-sal plants and windmill electricity aren’t the worst mix.

    HB, here’s a quote from the opening line…

    Perth continues to experience healthy amounts of rainfall

    Where’s all the water going, dam it?!?

  11. Peter Castieau says:

    At the time the desal plant number one was proposed, UWA Professor Jorg Imberger provided plenty of evidence that we should have sunk a big bore into the Yarragadee aquifer. This would have saved countless $$$$

    I think the good professor has since been hounded out of the university.

  12. Habib says:

    Every time I’ve been forced to go to that awful outpost it’s pissed down. Flannery should be loaded in a sack full of rocks and thrown into Warragamba dam. Or just into the Hawkesbury outside his gaff. Put his theories to the test.

  13. H B Bear says:

    Perth continues to experience healthy amounts of rainfall
    Where’s all the water going, dam it?!?

    Perth hills areas don’t have many suitable dam locations. They are barely foothills by any measure and evaporation rates over summer are extreme. The real issue is run-off. It seems to take longer to saturate the ground and you are getting less run-off into dams for a given amount of rainfall.

    If you really wanted to make an impact on water usage I would have thought that stormwater harvesting and treatment for industrial use would be one of the low hanging fruit. Perth rainfall tends to be heavy and short with a long summer with virtually no rain at all. This tends to limit tanks and storage options as in most cases you simply cannot store enough to get through this period.

    My understanding was that there had been a shift change in rainfall patterns since the 70s.

  14. wazz says:

    No water shortage forced seawater desal on Perth

  15. jupes says:

    I was born in Perth, have lived most of life here and moved back this year after seven years away. My memory of the weather is that it is hot and dry in summer and cold and wet in winter. This year is no different.

    However there is always an exception to the rule and as I write this, I’m looking at Elizabeth Quay, the Swan River and Kings Park bathed in glorious winter sunshine.

    Perth is the best place on Earth. Tim Flannery is a prize dill.

  16. feelthebern says:

    Emu Lager for all !

  17. Trader Perth says:

    Our east coast cousins might be surprised to learn of WA’s water resources. As a young man I visited the Ord River dam and was astounded at its size and potential for farming. The land area to irrigate and farm would spread east and cross over into the NT. The dam holds 18 times the water of Sydney Harbour and if it ever filled that number would grow to 50 times as much. That’s only one river . The Fitzroy River , if dammed would be as big. The potential growth in WA’s north is limited by politicians lounge chair comforts and whats needed are visionaries. Perth water supply is challenging but now with 2 desal units and better water harvesting in the catchment areas it manageable .

  18. Spring is coming says:

    Hows that independent Climate Council thing working for you Flannery?

  19. Perth Trader says:

    Marcus…the answer to your question , ‘Why Is’nt Perth a Ghost Town Yet’?..MONEY. Perth is home or a base for companies like FMG, Rio Tinto, BHP, Hancock Mining, Chevron, Woodside, Northern Star, Clough , even a branch of ‘The Bank of China’. These companies inject huge wealth into Aust. and WA. While the money pours in Govt’s will shift heaven and earth to keep these big names here.

  20. Dave of Reedy Creek, Qld says:

    Can anyone tell me PLEASE, has any of Flim Flam’s “prophecies” ever come to pass? I have searched and searched but cannot find one article that says any of his hysterical foretellings have happened.

  21. Karabar says:

    “Science is the belief in the IGNORANCE of the EXPERTS”.
    Richard Feynman.
    Never in the history of blatant non-science is there a better example of such a self-styled “expert”.

  22. Grandma says:

    I hope none of you are so naive as to think Tim Flannery is concerned about these predictive failures. He’s got that nice riverfront place on the Hawkesbury, a big pile of other people’s money for his geothermal venture, and a string of cosy appointments with their sitting fees and generous travel. Was it ever about anything else?

  23. Egor says:

    I want to hear more about the Flan’s involvement in that Hot Rocks IPO.
    I like to follow the money.

  24. Dr Fred Lenin says:

    Youse are all nasty attacking comrade Flannery ,he is right about the climate changing ,its cold now , but you wait till December , the climate will change for sure. Some people say climate has been changing forever but there’s no dinosaurs about to ask if that’s true.its sad that the first fleet invaders burnt all the records of the aboriginal republics weather bureau the records were writ on bark and went back 60,000years whitevandals depriving the climate carpetbaggers of proof.

  25. Peter Greagg says:

    #2768587, posted on July 20, 2018 at 3:22 pm
    I want to hear more about the Flan’s involvement in that Hot Rocks IPO.
    I like to follow the money.


  26. Jo Smyth says:

    We’ve been to a lot of places all over the world and visited and stayed in lots of places in Australia and there is nowhere, definitely nowhere better to live than Perth.

  27. Beachcomber says:

    It is depressing to see the sheer wilful vandalism and wrongness of Their ABC-TASS media, the public service, the academia, and of course their lackey politicians. Australia is being rapidly ruined by dickheads.

  28. Egor says:

    I’m shocked Pete, it seems that taxpayers wore at least 30% of the scam. That never happens with global warming carpet bagging, why it would happen with Hot Rocks is beyond me.
    No mention of the Flan’s exposure or freebee “share allocation” I notice.
    Ah well….it’s 2018 and Hot Rocks never happened.

  29. RobK says:

    Catchment vegetation management was all but abandoned on the mid 70’s, pretty much the same time that you see the commencement of steep decline in runoffs.
    Yes. The cleared and roaded catchments have succumb to the noble cause vegetation clearing bans and Rafe’s co2 fertilizer induced growth. Many areas of WAs SW that were forest that you could drive stock through 50 years ago are impassable now.

  30. Eyrie says:

    Ispent 20 years in Perth. Really nice place.
    What waazza said. Lack of vegetation management sucks up the water before it runs off into the dams.
    We need a Greenie cull.

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