The Bracks Government’s white paper on water delivers urgently needed reforms, radically overhauling Victoria’s water system and throwing a lifeline to sick and thirsty rivers, Victoria’s peak conservation body said.
“The White Paper breaks the drought of water neglect. A radical overhaul of Victoria’s water system has been desperately needed in Victoria – for too long our precious water resource has been squandered and overexploited,” said Environment Victoria’s healthy rivers campaigner Dr Paul Sinclair.
“The Government has shown it is prepared to make the tough decisions to guarantee the long-term quality and quantity of Victoria’s water supply. We now hope that many of the ills plaguing our water system are going to be addressed.”
Dr Sinclair welcomed the increased water price, new saving incentives for households and irrigators, as well as the creation of an expert panel to examine further savings.
“These are common sense solutions that will protect and restore the environment for Victorians today and in the future,” he said.
“Paying about 75 cents for 1000 litres is a joke. The real cost of water has to include the serious environmental damage done to river systems.”
Dr Sinclair said the proposal to return 169 billion litres to the Murray River and 20 billion litres to the Thomson River were positive first steps.
“Up to now we have been killing the rivers that keep us alive. The combined effects of drought and overuse have made our waterways ill. Returning water to the Murray and Thomson is critical but it must be followed through with further action.
“It’s a great day for Victoria’s rivers. It is crucial we strengthen our water supplies so that in times of drought, El Nino, global warming and population expansion our rivers are strong.”
He said the creation of environmental water reserves was a landmark step, with rivers given legal rights for the first time.
“This initiative is 100 years in the making. Up to now rivers have not mattered in the decision making process – they’ve been like the magic pudding, a never-ending resource, with no limits set on the amount that could be taken. Those days are gone.
“The Bracks Government must now follow tough promises with tough actions because when it comes to using water wisely, Victoria doesn’t have a moment to waste.”