Save the Murray | Environment Victoria

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Save the Murray 

The Murray River's the lifeblood of our country - it supports our people, wildlife and economy – and it’s in serious trouble.

The mighty Murray - and the rivers that flow into it - have been teetering on the brink of collapse. For far too long, we've been taking too much water out of them. By the end of the last drought, 75 percent of wetlands in Victoria had disappeared, more in some areas, native fish numbers were down by 90 percent and red gum forests were dying. Something has to change if they're to survive future droughts.

Recent rains and floods have provided the Murray with some welcome relief. River Red Gums are drinking deeply, wetlands are glistening and cacophonies of waterbirds are raising clutches of chicks. We’d love to see it stay that way. 

But nothing and no one can survive on one decent drink every twenty years. If the Murray is going to survive the next big dry it needs water put back into the system. 4000 billion litres, to be precise. 

And now, after a decade of hard work, we finally have a national plan to put most of that water back into the Murray. The final version of the Basin Plan allows for 2750GL to be returned to the environment, out of the 4000GL recommended by scientists, with a provision for an additional 450GL to be returned in 2030. 

So what does 2750GL mean for the environment? It doesn’t provide the protection needed for species in jeopardy. In many places we’ll have flooding for too short a time for birds to breed and native fish will still be stuck, unable to migrate or breed. Lower Lakes still have the potential to acidify, effectively becoming dead lakes and critical salinity thresholds in the Coorong will still be exceeded, wiping out local wildlife. Wetlands and floodplains will be threatened, with not enough water reaching black box woodlands. And a lack of flows is bad news for South Australia.

It’s clear then that this is not enough water, but it’s important to remember how far we’ve come. When we started campaigning for a Basin Plan, 500GL for the environment seemed like a distant goal. We’ve been up against a vigorous, self-interested campaign from some irrigator lobby groups, businesses and upstream states. So the fact that the water recovery target has increased at all is something to celebrate. There’s also the small matter that over 1500 GL has already been recovered for the environment (mainly through water purchase) and is being used right now to improve conditions for fish and birds. 

The thing that has made these improvements to the Plan possible is community action – and that means all of you who signed petitions, made submissions, delivered flyers, came to meetings, called the radio station, alerted your Facebook friends, talked about the Murray at the dinner table and helped in a thousand different ways. So CONGRATULATIONS, your actions have made a difference – the amount of water to go back to the Murray is more than 5 times what it was 10 years ago – that’s a big change!

Of course it’s not the end of the story - it never is - and there’s plenty of work to be done before all that water gets back in the river. And more battles ahead to get the river what it really needs for the long term which is at least 4000 GL.

Get the full details of the Plan >


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