Today’s announcement that water set aside to preserve water quality will be sold to irrigators makes a mockery of the Victorian Government’s commitment to securing environment flows, conservationists said.
Acting Victorian Premier John Thwaites said the Government would release 93 gigalitres, 7 gigalitres of which is a legal reserve set aside specifically to protect water quality, to Goulburn irrigators.
“That water is reserved for the purpose of preventing algal blooms that kill fish. It also ensures water quality for people who rely on this system for drinking water, recreation and camping,” said Australian Conservation Foundation healthy river campaigner Dr Arlene Buchan.
“When water quality problems are detected, reserved water is released to flush the system and dilute blue green algae or other contaminants to less harmful levels.
“During a period of persistently warm weather and low flows – the ideal conditions for algal blooms – it beggars belief that the Government has agreed to sell a significant proportion of its insurance policy against Blue Green algae to the industry that already accounts for 77 per cent of Victoria’s water use,” Dr Buchan said.
“The Department of Sustainability & Environment has identified the Goulburn as a river at above average risk of blooms,” said Environment Victoria’s healthy rivers campaigner Juliet Le Feuvre.
“Irrigators and native wildlife are struggling during this period of unprecedented drought. There are contingency plans for irrigators, but not for our native wildlife,” Ms Le Feuvre said.
“This is the latest in a series of qualifications of the environment’s rights to water in Victoria, including the cancellation of environmental flows that may result in the loss of platypus, river blackfish and other native species from rivers.”