Blog | 22nd Nov, 2009

Improving river health across the country

As campaigners, we get used to being the only person in the room who is sticking up for the environment. Imagine how exciting and what a pleasure it is when we get together as a group of like-minded people who share a common goal of protecting and restoring our environment.

This is exactly what happened last week when water and river campaigners from Victoria, Queensland, NSW and South Australia got together to discuss common issues and plan how we can work together to improve river health across the country.

We discussed how we can get river health on the agenda for the state and federal elections next year, how to get the new Basin Plan to deliver water to rivers and wetlands across the Murray Darling Basin and how we can prod governments into action to get on with water reform processes thay have already agreed to.

The best and the worst stories came out of Queensland.

On the positive side the government there has passed Wild Rivers legislation to protect the rivers of Cape York and the Gulf of Carpentaria from development and are considering extending the protection to other iconic rivers such as Coopers Creek and the Diamantina. The plan to dam the Mary River to provide water for Brisbane and the Gold Coast has also been halted by the federal government, which is great news for the endangerd lungfish and the Mary Riverturtle, and thrilling for local residents who have fought long and hard to stop the dam.

On the other side of the coin, the impacts of the coal industry on rivers and groundwater resources in central Queensland are devastating. New dams are being proposed to supply coal mining operations and untold billions of litres of groundwater are being extracted along with coal seam gas, which is compressed and exported as fuel. The truly scary aspect of all this is that these water uses are totally unregulated and there are literally hundreds of exploration licences awaiting development. The mining industry is a massive threat to water resources and is inextricably linked with climate change. The Queensland experience reflects the situation closer to home in the Latrobe valley where the coal mines and polluting power stations are big users of water and a major threat to both rivers and the climate.

One of the first thing we decided to do as a water campaigners' group is write a joint submission to the Murray Darling Basin Authority on sustainable diversion limits in the Basin. We can pool resources and expertise to create something more comprehensive and powerful than any of the groups can come up with on their own. Stay tuned for the result of our effort!

Any suggestions on what we should cover at the next gathering? Tells us what you think.