Drought, our rivers and the basin plan

Shepparton News - Country News - - OPINION -

Peo­ple liv­ing and work­ing in the Goul­burn-Mur­ray and the Rive­rina know all about the ex­tremes of cli­mate that de­fine this im­por­tant part of Aus­tralia.

There’s no sign yet of re­lief from the cur­rent drought, with the Bureau of Me­te­o­rol­ogy say­ing at this stage Septem­ber and Oc­to­ber look likely to be drier than aver­age.

When it’s dry, the whole river sys­tem feels it — in­clud­ing the river red gums and black box, the fish, the birds and other life that be­longs to the rivers, wet­lands and flood­plains. They are im­por­tant to the longterm sus­tain­abil­ity of the whole Mur­ray-Dar­ling, and if we pro­tect their health we fun­da­men­tally pro­tect the fu­ture of farms and com­mu­ni­ties.

The Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan ex­ists pre­cisely for times like this, by en­sur­ing that the river en­vi­ron­ment gets its share of al­lo­cated wa­ter just as ir­ri­ga­tors get their share; it’s not one or the other, but a case of bal­anc­ing the long-term needs of all that we value, as a na­tion, about this uniquely im­por­tant part of Aus­tralia. That bal­ance is the ba­sis of a healthy work­ing river sys­tem.

Al­lo­cated wa­ter on its way to tar­geted parts of the river en­vi­ron­ment helps the whole sys­tem as it moves in and out of the lo­cal rivers and wet­lands many times over, in the Mur­rumbidgee, the Goul­burn, the Mur­ray, the Ed­ward, Wakool and all the way through the river net­works. Some of that wa­ter even­tu­ally makes it to the end, to the Lower Lakes and Mur­ray Mouth, car­ry­ing the salt and nu­tri­ent load with it.

There have been re­cent calls for wa­ter that is man­aged for the en­vi­ron­ment to be sold to farm­ers so they can fin­ish off crops, es­pe­cially fod­der crops that can help drought-af­fected farm­ers to feed their live­stock. This is un­der­stand­able, as we all want to help out those farm­ers who are strug­gling with the drought.

The mil­len­nium drought taught us about the risk of play­ing pro­duc­tion off against the en­vi­ron­ment. It showed us that when the river is un­der stress, agri­cul­ture suf­fers too.

The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of wa­ter cur­rently in stor­age is owned by ir­ri­ga­tors, who are mak­ing de­ci­sions about whether to use their wa­ter, trade it or carry it into the next year.

Farm­ers wish­ing to buy or sell wa­ter can ac­cess wa­ter mar­kets as a way to man­age their business risk. Wa­ter is cur­rently avail­able, at mar­ket value, for those who want to buy, and proper oper­a­tion of the wa­ter mar­ket means those who choose to sell wa­ter can also earn a fair price for their as­set.

No-one knows how long the cur­rent drought will con­tinue.

The MDBA’s job all the while is to make sure the basin’s many dif­fer­ent val­ues are pro­tected for all Aus­tralians.

That in­cludes thriv­ing agri­cul­ture, a re­silient en­vi­ron­ment and strong com­mu­ni­ties.

Today and into the fu­ture, the basin plan is our best plan, through drought and through the next flood.

— Phillip Glyde, Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Au­thor­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive

Wa­ter is cur­rently avail­able, at mar­ket value, for those who want to buy, and proper oper­a­tion of the wa­ter mar­ket means those who choose to sell wa­ter can also earn a fair price for their as­set.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.