MURRAY-DARLING BASIN STILL IN DROUGHT.
As we have watched the history making flows in the iconic, meandering Darling River fill the Menindee Lakes, Billabongs, Anna branches and then combine with the huge floods from Victoria and now the Murrumbidgee fill the Lower Lakes of the Murray and flow to sea; we could correctly assume that the long drought is over.
This is supported by the fact that most of the storages in the lower Basin are now overflowing or in the healthy shape of filling steadily.
However there remains in the Basin a much more damaging drought that is destroying our capacity to improve the situation for future generations.
It is the drought of truth and reason.
Truth, reason and common sense have been washed away in a flood of emotional environmentalism. Mostly championed by career academics and attention seeking Politicians and now embodied in a policy document delivered by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
The result of this imbalance is best summed up by the quote:
Our democratic decision making process is less at risk from what people do not know, than it is from what people do know that is false.
Surely, given all the knowledge and history we have at our disposal in relation to water and the Murray-Darling Basin, we could have a plan that would benefit all stakeholders, including “the environment.”
Why don’t we calmly recognize the assets we have in this food bowl region at present and just agree to do the following?
Ensure that the first priority for any water in each river in the system is to maintain stream flow so that all stock, domestic and town supplies can be maintained along its entire course.
Then given that Adelaide and adjacent towns will have to continue to rely on water from the Murray, we put in place an interstate agreement that provides for this.
As horticultural crops are established over several years and are also high return to water input, we should make them the third priority.
It would be prudent at this point to also provide a buffer against low inflows to ensure we could provide for these three water availability priorities for at least two more years.
If then and only then we allocated any remaining water on some type of pro rata basis to annual crop irrigators we should be able to make the most efficient use of our water and allow increased production in years of excess flow and decreased production in lean water years.
Surely we can stop the bickering and do something as simple as this.
Doesn’t that sound logical? Well guess what?
That is (with a few variations) exactly how water has been allocated for the last ninety-five years.
That is why the first three priorities were adequately provided on most of the rivers in the MDB during the just concluded worst drought in European history.
Truth is the system has been well managed by any rational assessment.
Truth is there is more wetland habitat in the MDB now than when Europeans arrived.
Truth is these wetlands are mostly maintained as permanent by man in stark contrast to Nature’s haphazard regime.
Truth is the lower lakes are a man-made problem and the biggest waste of fresh water in the system.
Truth is that the flow in the lower Murray has little to do with the Coorong.
Truth is we can improve outcomes for all species by increasing water conservation throughout the system to store excess water for use by all during droughts
Truth is the dams, weirs, run-off storages, channels and even some irrigated fields are the best habitat in the Basin for our aquatic species.
It is time these truths flowed across the plain of public opinion and washed away the misinformation that has been blinding our vision.
It is time for this drought of truth in the Murray-Darling Basin to also come to an end.