Conservationists welcomed the passing of the Water (Resource Management) Act last night.
For the first time in Victoria’s history our rivers now have a legal right to water.
Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaign Director Dr Paul Sinclair said key elements of the new act are:
“After 120 years, Victoria finally has a Water Act that acknowledges rivers are much more than just water supply systems for irrigators and cities,’’ Dr Sinclair said.
“For the first time our river laws rate environmental values as worth protecting. This Bill creates an ‘environmental water reserve’ that will be like a bank to hold a secure water allocation for our rivers.”
Dr Sinclair said Victoria’s rivers – including those important northern rivers that feed the Murray River – now have a clear legal right to water.
“The next step is to start making deposits of water into the new water banks,” he said.
“The Act sets out a clear process to tackle the potentially catastrophic impacts of climate change on already degraded rivers. Scientific estimates predict climate change could reduce flows in the Murray River system by up to 3000 billion litres by 2050 – that’s almost 8 times what Melbourne consumes in a year.
“Climate change is a huge threat to rivers, towns, and to irrigation industries locked into relying upon supplies of huge volumes of water. The new law makes it clear that governments have the power to secure healthy water supplies, but must involve the community in any proposals that change how water is used. It must be fair to the whole community – including those who fish, boat on, swim in and enjoy rivers”, said Dr Sinclair.
“This new law takes us a step closer to securing healthy river system. Unless we give rivers legal rights, we can’t protect them or guarantee our healthy water supplies. River health does not compete with our water supply, it guarantees it.”
See www.parliament.vic.gov.au for more information.