Hopes evaporate for the Murray-Darling
The recent significant rain event in the northern stretch of the Murray Darling Basin has not only given hope to suffering farmers and rural communities, it has also placed a spotlight firmly on the fraud being perpetrated by the Prime Minister and the cabal of Labor Premiers when it comes to water policy for the Murray Darling Basin.
Only 18 months ago this group of ‘leaders’ stood together and waved around a ‘historic’ agreement in Chamberlin like fashion claiming that it delivered a national system of water management.
Not only has this been shown to be a complete joke by the torrent of water now flowing down the Darling, it has also shown the Rudd Government’s failure to invest in the necessary infrastructure to deliver real water savings before the rain came.
In January 2007 the Howard Government announced a ground breaking national water plan that contained three essential elements - water buybacks, infrastructure investment and national water management reform.
The infrastructure investment was described as ‘re-plumbing’ rural Australia to not only ensure irrigation practices were more efficient but to also deliver increased flows to the tributaries and the River Murray itself.
This investment stood next to the money allocated to buying back water licenses that would help ensure the Murray Darling Basin continued to be Australia’s food bowl, but at the same time in way that was not destroying the very environment it needed to flourish.
This plan was adopted by the Rudd Government with increased money for buy backs when it was elected to Government. So while the Rudd Government has entered into necessary buy backs of some water licences, it has completely failed to spend the money already allocated in the budget on water infrastructure that is so important to achieving our goals.
Remember the goal here is to create a system that provides for the use of this naturally replenishing resource in an environmentally sustainable way. We can not have a healthy river system while the Lower Lakes at the end of it are left to die.
This brings me to the primary example of the failure of Kevin Rudd on water policy for the Murray Darling Basin, infrastructure investment.
Through sound and effective investment in water infrastructure the Rudd Government could have ensured many hundreds of giga-litres were delivered back to the environment and the irrigators. Instead we are faced with a situation where barely a drop of water has been delivered back into the river system since the Labor Party assumed Government two years ago.
The Menindee Lakes in far western New South Wales is the destination for much of the water bucketed on the northern parts of the State during the flooding rains.
It will therefore be a decision of the NSW Government as to how much is released down the river system, causing a great deal of public speculation particularly in communities around the Lower Lakes.
These people have their collective fingers crossed that we may see some real water for the first time in many years.
The Menindee Lakes are a wide collection of lakes that cover much land and are in parts very shallow thus losing enormous amounts to evaporation.
A plan has been with the Federal Government now since at least 2007 that involves reducing the area of the Lakes and deepening them to reduce the evaporation. It is estimated that the Lakes lose approximately 200 giga-litres a year from evaporation.
This plan would save a large portion of the water evaporated meaning so much more could be released down the Darling to meet the Murray at Wentworth helping flows in both systems.
While this will not save the Lower Lakes alone it will obviously have an impact on the flows, helping to stave off the worst of the devastating effects of this crisis.
But because the Rudd Government has dithered, we will lose so much valuable water to evaporation that need not be lost. The searing outback sun will ensure this is the case. So much precious water lost to farmers and the environment.
This represents a sad example of the Rudd Government on so many fronts. All talk and no action. All spin and no substance.
Water is the challenge of our generation.
If Kevin Rudd wants to take real action on improving our environment he could start by focusing on our Lower Lakes and the Murray Darling Basin and not some international talkfest. The Lower Lakes are a calamity in which humans have had a part in causing.
Can you imagine just how much good could have been delivered to the Murray Darling Basin if the 23 billion dollars that was handed out in $900 Rudd cheques had of been instead spent on effective water infrastructure?
We have missed one flood of opportunity, the Lower Lakes can’t miss another.
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