Authority to lobby against water extraction
THE Murray Darling Basin Association (MDBA) last week voted unanimously to lobby the Victorian Government to account for the impact on communities of groundwater taken and used as bottled water fill.
The association’s national conference and annual meeting of 200 delegates in the NSW Murrumbidgee River town of Leeton unanimously agreed to a motion drafted by Indigo Shire councillor Bernard Gaffney to approach the State Government to amend water legislation.
Indigo Shire mayor Cr Jenny O’Connor presented the motion to delegates, who represent basin communities in four states and the ACT.
Cr Gaffney’s motion calls on the government to consider changes to section 51 of the Water Act 1989.
These would require water authorities to consult communities and take account of the effects of groundwater take-and-use applications on horticulture and agriculture, bores for domestic and stock use and water use in nearby towns and villages.
Authorities would also have to consider the effects of applications on the environment and water flow to reservoirs, and to consult local councils about the purpose for which groundwater was to be taken.
The motion to better manage and regulate groundwater extraction for bottling, where it impacts on high value agricultural land, has also been supported by the Municipal Association of Victoria.
Cr O’Connor said the unanimous decision by MDBA delegates clearly reflected concern about the implications of groundwater extraction that went beyond a small municipality like the Indigo Shire, which has consistently opposed groundwater mining for bottled water fill.
“It’s a far reaching issue that faces every state in Australia,” she said.
Cr O’Connor said her team would still lobby the govern- ment independently of the MDBA but with the backing of the association could approach the Minister for Water directly.
She said the MDBA was submitting a letter to the minister detailing the proposed changes.
Stanley Rural Community Incorporated (SCRI) chairman Ed Tyrie said the important development was a direct outcome from the Stanley community’s challenge through the group to oppose water mining companies from turning the Stanley Plateau into a “water mining wasteland”.
“There are now 83 million litres of groundwater under commercial licence for bottling on the plateau,” he said.