The release of the Independent Review of Lower Lakes Science Informing Water Management is the latest of recent reports that highlight the complexity of the Murray River system. These reports show that we need to stop looking for the cheapest and easiest solution and start thinking about our long term adaptability, says Federal Member for Mallee, Anne Webster.
Dr Webster said the release today of an independent review into the science relating to the management of the Lower Lakes and Coorong reinforces previous reports about the complex needs of the modern Murray Darling Basin.
“I welcome this independent scientific review because it helps us to better focus the conversation on the future. All of the recent reports highlight the complexity of the Basin, and the risks that changes in one area have to the whole basin, which is why we must shift our conversation to the future and adaptation.
“Inspector General of the Murray Darling Basin, Mick Keelty recently highlighted that it is not possible to change one part of the Basin or adjust water management without it impacting on another. This is again highlighted in today’s report.
“Last month’s draft report of the Independent Panel into the Social and Economic Conditions in the Basin found river communities along the length of the River have been negatively impacted by water buyback for the environment. Further buybacks would be dire for these communities.
“Today’s report shows the future will be more challenging but other reports show the low hanging fruit is gone. The easy water recovery is done and it is time for new thinking. It is time for us to look at adaptation.
“We need to start having serious conversations about the adaptability of the basin, of our farmers and of our towns as we plan for future challenges,” Dr Webster said.
“I know many in our communities were hoping this review would show that management decisions around the Lower Lakes would need to be changed, with more water being made available upstream. That is not the case, and they will be disappointed.
“We need to look at all of these reports, including the impending ACCC report into the Water Market, consolidate their findings, and then have a serious discussion about the future of our communities and the river system they depend on.
“Mallee is a proud food and fibre producing and exporting region and that has been made possible in part by our river infrastructure and management.
“Now is the time to draw a line in the sand and accept that we have a modern working river system that has borne industries from top to bottom and we must decide to support those communities.
The scientific review panel, led by the CSIRO, looked at dozens of scientific papers and studies and found the Lower Lakes infrastructure, including the barrages, play an important role in balancing the impact of upstream infrastructure including the major storage dams, irrigation channels and locks and weirs.
“According to the findings of the panel, the entire basin system has undergone significant change and proposals to remove the barrages or build a Lock Zero would not lead to more water availability for upstream irrigators,” Dr Webster said.
“That means we need to investigate how to better manage our precious resource while achieving more sustainable outcomes for farmers without compromising our environment and vice versa.”
“All of the decisions made must be made on the best available science, knowledge and data, for a better future for all.