Plan is not perfect, but it’s the best we have

August 02, 2017

The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is our national water management strategy that all state governments agreed to.

Not perfect, but it’s our national plan that allows fair use of our national asset to irrigators, farmers, towns and communities and the environment within the basin and up and down our rivers.

Four Corners has uncovered rogue irrigators stealing water and corrupt bureaucrats feeding the cotton industry so that the select few profit from our taxpayer dollars.

Meanwhile, our rivers are not receiving the environmental flows that are needed to keep them alive and healthy.

In Echuca this means we could face lower river levels if the flows are needed for downstream to make up for shortfalls.

Time after time we see our wharf unusable, paddle steamers cannot move up and down the river and our tourist towns suffer.

Our river boating industry is worth hundreds of millions of dollars and seems to have no solid voice.

All along our waterways river folk are standing up and being counted, demanding that the plan be implemented in full.

Politics in our region are staid, same old same old. Nothing new here.

Some say blow the barrages at the lower end of the river, some say we don’t need all this water for the environment, some say #runtheriverdry.

But at the end of the day we as a nation need our rivers to flow from the source to the sea.

We need our rivers to have seasonal flows that allow communities to prosper, farmers to grow crops, wetlands to be maintained and our unique birds and animals allowed a place live.

We need our rivers navigable for our boats and paddle steamers, we need environmental water so we can take our children fishing in our tinnies, we need water for the rivers.

Bring on Ken Mathews and the independent commission, prosecute and get rid of whoever needs to be ousted, get the stolen water back into our rivers and let’s get on with transparent management of our most precious national resource, $13billion of water, which is our life blood.

—Tuesday Browell


Northern Victoria will be the biggest loser

Readers may be aware that in February, Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce announced a parliamentary inquiry into water use efficiency in Australian agriculture.

Eight members of parliament preside over the inquiry, including one Victorian, Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad.

Their terms of reference include assessing if recent Commonwealth expenditure on water programs has provided value for money.

Mention is also made of maintaining or increasing agricultural production from this water.

The inquiry received some 46 submissions, with very few from northern Victoria.

Many submissions advocate approaches that will be detrimental to northern Victoria.

Some quite serious issues should be registered with this inquiry, but this now appears unlikely.

One major inefficiency in water use is the encouragement of water movement to the semi-arid zones of north-west Victoria, south-west NSW and South Australia.

Irrigating in a 250mm rainfall zone, when compared to a 500mm district, requires an extra 2.5Ml/ha (100mm provides 1Ml/ha).

Additionally, at least another 1.5Ml/ha is needed to make up for increased evapotranspiration.

This gives Shepparton a 4Ml/ha advantage. More specifically it means much more water for plant production.

It is difficult to see the wisdom in policies which assist supposedly scarce and finite water resources being taken out of districts where water can generate 30 to 60 per cent more plant production.

Lower Murray Water figures indicate Robinvale and Sunraysia irrigators used about 132Gl last year.

The issue of concern is the reported 457Gl used for private diversions between Nyah and the South Australian border.

Recently proposed developments for the NSW side of Sunraysia (50Gl), South Australia (80Gl) and the Victorian Government approval for a further 32Gl to the Victorian Mallee area, means more water will be sought from northern Victoria, where irrigators with an average age approaching 60, would be quite logical to sell their water entitlements.

Future generations will be dismayed with the way water was taken away from higher rainfall zones.

These irrigation developments have many consequences to northern Victoria.

These include less water for Goulburn-Murray Water to deliver, resulting in higher unit charges making our area less competitive for many of our farming industries.

One of the greatest concerns will be apparent when our next drought arrives.

Irrigation developments in the semi-arid zone will be prepared to pay much more than most of our irrigators for temporary and permanent water.

This could well have much more serious impacts on water available to northern Victorian irrigators than the 2006-07 experience.

The political clout we have in Canberra’s thinking on water is obvious, when the secretary of the parliamentary inquiry into water efficiency advised me this week that: ‘‘We had hoped to receive a submission from Goulburn-Murray Water (who would host us for inspections in the area as well), but this has not happened.

‘‘Without input from G-MW, it is difficult to justify having the committee travel to northern Victoria.’’

The Canberra thinking also indicates their belief Goulburn-Murray Water knows more about irrigation farming than irrigators.

—Barry Croke


More in Rural
Login Sign Up

Dummy text