The South Australian Government has made it clear it is fighting to return fresh water to the Lower Lakes of the Murray River, as it launches a royal commission into the Murray-Darling Basin.
SA Premier Jay Weatherill marked the start of the royal commission by visiting Meningie on the lower lakes.
Barrister Bret Walker is set to begin his investigation after the final terms of reference were gazetted on Wednesday.
He will examine the effectiveness of the existing Murray-Darling Basin Plan and whether it can deliver on its promise to ensure the system’s environmental health and future as a sustainable resource.
The inquiry will also examine compliance from all states with the current plan and whether alternative arrangements need to be put in place.
Mr Weatherill said one of the first things he did as premier was stand up for the Murray and secure 3200Gl of water to deliver a healthy Murray-Darling Basin.
‘‘But we must always remain vigilant and it’s clear some people upstream have been doing the wrong thing,’’ he said.
‘‘Now it’s time to stand up again and fight for what’s right.’’
Mr Weatherill announced the royal commission late last year after an independent basin authority review — sparked by reports of widespread water theft — found NSW and Queensland were failing to make sure irrigators complied with water rules.
The royal commission has the support of the state Opposition and SA irrigators while the Federal Government has indicated it will co-operate with the investigation.
Mr Walker is to present his final report to the SA Government by February 1 next year but has the discretion to hand down interim reports.
Before barrages were built in the 1930s, tidal effects and the intrusion of seawater occurred during periods of low flow into the Lower Lakes and in the Murray River, up to 250km upstream from its mouth.
Although not in the Murray-Darling Basin, Adelaide pumps about 40 per cent of its city water supplies from the Murray River.