Media Releases | 4th Jun, 2009

Water deal a breakthrough for the Murray

Thursday, 4 June 2009

The Victorian and Federal governments’ breakthrough agreement to partially lift the four per cent cap on interstate water trade, and allow the Commonwealth to buy an anticipated 460 billion litres of water for the Murray River system, was welcomed by the Australian Conservation Foundation and Environment Victoria.

“A further 175 billion litres of water will become available through irrigation modernisation projects, yet there is still no detail underpinning what Stage 2 of the Food Bowl project will look like, and how the anticipated water savings would be secured,” said ACF healthy rivers campaigner Dr Arlene Buchan.

“This agreement will better integrate investment in infrastructure with the buyback of environmental water. It also targets investment into areas according to their optimum future land and water use in the light of the impacts of climate change, and the need to return water to the environment,” she said.

“On the face of it, this is a very significant announcement, largely addressing the widespread concerns about the four per cent cap on water purchases which had prevented the Commonwealth buying back water at substantial volumes for the environment.

“This blockage to environmental water purchase in Victoria recently infuriated the NSW Government to the extent that they put an embargo on further environmental water purchases in NSW.”

Environment Victoria’s acting CEO Mark Wakeham said the government’s decision was the best news Victoria’s northern rivers have had in a long time.

“We’re really pleased the Victorian and Federal governments have ended their Mexican standoff and now look forward to seeing the return of large amounts of water to the river system,” he said.

“Today’s announcement removes a significant obstacle to buying or selling water from Victoria. It’s a win for farmers who are struggling in marginal areas and want to make the transition away from irrigation as well as a win for the environment.

“Across the Murray River floodplain, magnificent Red River Gums are dying, native fish are failing to breed, and once-abundant waterbirds are disappearing. Returning natural water flows to these rivers and wetland forests will help ensure the survival of Australia’s food-bowl and give the river a chance to recover.”

ACF and Environment Victoria will continue to encourage the Victorian Government to use the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) meetings to permanently remove all barriers to water trade in all states and territories, and further accelerate the acquisition of water for the environment.

For further comments, contact:
Dr Arlene Buchan, ACF healthy rivers campaigner, on 0407 883 907
Mark Wakeham, Environment Victoria acting CEO on 0439 700 501