DATE: 6 December 2011
TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN
I have visited the Murray Darling basin on many occasions, from the headwaters of the Murray River at Cowambat Flat all the way to the lower lakes of the Murray mouth and the Coorong.
The river system is remarkable. Its natural systems are unique in Australia and irreplaceable.
It has been obvious for decades that too much water was being drawn from the system, mainly for agricultural use. I studied Agricultural Science at Latrobe university, during which I learnt that much of the irrigation infrastructure was very wasteful of water, including open channels, flood irrigation of dairy pastures, sprinkler irrigation systems and even rice cultivation.
South Australia has born the brunt of the problems with drastic depletion of the river flow in its lower reaches and serious pollution of the water by heavy salt burdens and agricultural chemicals. Adelaide still sources the majority of its drinking wate from the Murray River.
The drastic impacts on the lower Murray, its lakes and the Coorong during the recent 10 year drought were unacceptable. Some lakes drained, exposed soils became acidified and toxic, and sea water threatened to invade the freshwater system and severly impact its freshwater ecosystem.
Regular flushing of the river system - as used to happen during regular floods - is essential for its health.
Appropriate regular ecological flows are essential for preserving the integrity and life of the Murray Darling system. I understand that scientists have recommended a minimum of 4000 gigalitres.
Reducing ecological flows in response to political campaigns and pressure from industries that continue to demand unsustainable quantities of water from the system will damage and even kill the system. When this happens, the industries will be forced to reduce their water use - they cannot use water that is not there.
The 2750GL now recommended by the Authority is not enough to save the system.
In addition, the doubling of extraction from groundwater resources is also likely to deplete aquifers.
The low environmental water flow and more extraction of groundwater will put ecosystems, communities and industries at risk.
The Plan must halt the decline of waterbirds, fish, red gums, flora and fauna, reduce blue-green algae outbreaks and improve water quality. A minimum of 4000 gigalitres is necessary to achieve this.
Information about how to make a submission is here: Murray-Darling Basin Authority