Dry times proof of plan’s im­por­tance

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION - By Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive Phillip Glyde

Dry times have been sorely test­ing com­mu­ni­ties and the en­vi­ron­ment in the north­ern Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin for a long time.

Though the wa­ter out­look in the south is rea­son­able for the com­ing year, the low rate of in­flows re­cently into the Mur­ray River sys­tem and the need for block banks in the lower Dar­ling sig­nal the pos­si­bil­ity of dry times ar­riv­ing in the south of the basin as well.

The Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy says there’s a 50:50 chance of the like­li­hood of El Nin˜ o de­vel­op­ing in spring.

For a great many peo­ple, men­tion of El Nin˜ o sends us back 10 years to the mil­len­nium drought that changed how we all use wa­ter and still in­flu­ences our view of wa­ter to­day.

It’s what gave rise to the na­tion’s agree­ment to share wa­ter in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling fairly so that the en­vi­ron­ment, farm­ers and com­mu­ni­ties can deal with the in­evitable chal­lenges thrown up by our vari­able cli­mate.

We are clearly in a much bet­ter po­si­tion than we were at the start of the mil­len­nium drought.

With its basin-wide ap­proach to river man­age­ment, the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan works in the in­ter­ests of ev­ery­one in the basin, not one par­tic­u­lar state or one par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est group.

Wa­ter for crit­i­cal hu­man needs has been pri­ori­tised above other wa­ter uses.

Wa­ter is now man­aged to sus­tain the en­vi­ron­ment out­side the pool of wa­ter avail­able to ir­ri­ga­tors.

There are agreed trig­gers to share wa­ter un­der very dry sce­nar­ios.

With basin plan fund­ing, ir­ri­ga­tors are im­prov­ing their wa­ter ef­fi­ciency to help them man­age bet­ter through dry times.

Peo­ple can use the wa­ter mar­ket to man­age their own busi­ness risks by sell­ing or buy­ing wa­ter, and many ir­ri­ga­tors use carryover pro­vi­sions to bal­ance their year-onyear risk.

In the south, where Dart­mouth Dam is close to 90 per cent full, the re­source will help meet carryover com­mit­ments in the NSW Mur­ray and un­der­pin early sea­son al­lo­ca­tions in Vic­to­ria.

And re­cent flows into our stor­ages, although lower than av­er­age, are bet­ter than they were three years ago, in 2015.

Through con­tin­ued care­ful man­age­ment, the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity is work­ing to en­sure as healthy a po­si­tion as pos­si­ble for wa­ter stor­ages this time next year.

If things con­tinue to dry-off in the south in the com­ing year, it’s re­ally im­por­tant we re­mem­ber why we have a basin plan.

Un­der­pin­ning the plan is the right of wa­ter en­ti­tle­ment hold­ers to use their wa­ter al­lo­ca­tions as they see fit, whether it’s en­vi­ron­ment man­agers sup­port­ing river ecosys­tems or ir­ri­ga­tors sus­tain­ing pro­duc­tion.

The al­ter­na­tive is a river sys­tem that even­tu­ally can’t sup­port any­thing.

Al­lo­ca­tions are made for en­ti­tle­ments equally, re­gard­less of whether they are held by ir­ri­ga­tors or en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter hold­ers, but ac­cess to wa­ter is not a com­pe­ti­tion.

Pres­sures about wa­ter avail­abil­ity as the dry con­tin­ues in the north­ern basin are a clear ex­am­ple of just how im­por­tant it is that we stick to how wa­ter is shared as agreed in the basin plan.

While we all hope and pray that the drought in the north breaks and does not travel south, the MDBA is plan­ning to best man­age all sce­nar­ios.

Some­where over that rain­bow . . . There was a slight re­prieve from cloudy con­di­tions last week, as Be­nalla pho­tog­ra­pher RENE MARTENS cap­tured this rain­bow peek­ing through the clouds.

Cold and cloudy . . . It was gloomy across much of the re­gion as win­try con­di­tions con­tin­ued.

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