Nat­u­ral floods are ‘flows’

Southern Riverina news - - RURAL OUTLOOK -

Nat­u­ral flood wa­ters should re­place en­vi­ron­men­tal flows in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan when se­vere flood­ing oc­curs.

That was one of the mes­sages Fed­eral Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Min­is­ter Barnaby Joyce left with ir­ri­ga­tion in­dus­try rep­re­sen­ta­tives when in De­niliquin last Wed­nes­day night.

The Deputy Prime Min­is­ter’s fly-in visit, where he was ac­com­pa­nied by Fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley and his se­nior wa­ter ad­vi­sor, in­cluded a brief tour of flood af­fected ar­eas on the Lower Tocumwal Rd just out­side De­niliquin where land­hold­ers are fac­ing the rising Tup­pal and Bul­latale creeks as a re­sult of huge in­flows into the Mur­ray River.

This was fol­lowed by an in­for­mal ‘shed meet­ing’ at Bill Holden’s De­niliquin prop­erty, where Mr Joyce heard ‘on-the-ground’ is­sues from those af­fected.

Dur­ing the tour, Bul­latale Creek prop­erty own­ers An­drew and Louise Burge and Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Di­vert­ers chair John Loli­cato each stressed to Mr Joyce that flood­ing was only go­ing to worsen in com­ing weeks.

They also high­lighted the nat­u­ral in­un­da­tion he was see­ing was repli­cat­ing the ex­act models of en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter de­liv­ery be­ing pro­posed in the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Plan.

‘‘These flows have an en­vi­ron­men­tal out­come, but it’s not booked in (as en­vi­ron­men­tal flows),’’ Mr Joyce ac­knowl­edged.

‘‘It is hy­dro­log­i­cally im­pos­si­ble to move all this wa­ter down the sys­tem, and I have raised that at least four times with the Mur­ray-Dar­ling Basin Author­ity.

‘‘And it’s not just in this sec­tion of the plan we need changed.

‘‘With­out changes we will see our towns go broke, and I don’t want that to hap­pen.

‘‘You would un­der­stand the is­sues bet­ter than me be­cause it’s your lives — I am here to learn from you.

‘‘You have a vastly greater knowl­edge, and I know some of the as­sump­tions (in the Basin Plan) are wrong.’’

At the sub­se­quent meet­ing, Mr Joyce was quizzed over the ap­proach to un­used en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter.

With most of Aus­tralia now in flood, en­vi­ron­men­tal al­lo­ca­tions take up ‘air space’ in dams, Mr Joyce was told. Many ir­ri­ga­tors believe that this re­stricts ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter al­lo­ca­tion in­creases.

‘‘I just don’t get it,’’ De­niliquin land­holder Rus­sell Tait said.

‘‘Dart­mouth is at 65 per cent and the Hume has been spilling for at least three weeks. Each day there is 115,000 me­gal­itres com­ing through Al­bury, 115,000ML out of Yar­ra­wonga and more still out of the Ovens (River) at Peechelba. But we’re still on an al­lo­ca­tion of 53 per cent – how does that work?

‘‘There is no need for en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter but they (the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­men­tal Wa­ter Holder) still get to re­tain their wa­ter in the dam for next year. That needs to change.’’

While la­belling the sit­u­a­tion ‘‘ridicu­lous’’, Ms Ley said the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment can­not dic­tate to the state gov­ern­ment what it can al­lo­cate to ir­ri­ga­tors.

Mr Joyce said the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­men­tal Wa­ter Holder needs to pro­vide a com­pre­hen­sive watering plan, in­clud­ing what ar­eas will be wa­tered and at what times.

‘‘If they can’t do that, we need to ask if that wa­ter should be trade­able,’’ he said.

‘‘It goes to the eth­i­cacy of the flood — the en­vi­ron­men­tal out­comes have been achieved, so what do we do with the rest of the wa­ter?

‘‘That is the ba­sic idea — can we get a bet­ter re­turn from this as­set?’’

Mrs Burge flagged that if wa­ter is to be traded, it needs to be done fairly.

‘‘We need to track that. If traded, the wa­ter needs to go back into the area it was taken from,’’ she said.

Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Limited chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Michael Rene­han, Fed­eral Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture and Wa­ter Re­sources Barn­aby Joyce, Fed­eral Mem­ber for Far­rer Sus­san Ley, Mur­ray Val­ley Pri­vate Divert­ers chair John Loli­cato and Bul­latale Creek...

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