Blog | 30th Jan, 2012

2012 - make or break for the Murray-Darling!

This year is going to be one of big questions and decisions for our biggest river system. The questions is – will the final version of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA)’s Basin Plan do enough to keep our rivers healthy in the long term? The federal parliament then has to decide whether to adopt the plan or not.

The MDBA released a draft Basin Plan before Christmas and its proposal to return 2750 billion litres to the rivers of the Basin has come in for some heavy criticism. The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists has released a statement saying that ‘the Draft Basin Plan should be withdrawn because it does not provide the information required to make an informed decision on the future of the river system’. They are deeply concerned about the use of science in formulating the draft Plan, the lack of consideration of climate change and the proposed increase in how much groundwater can be used. And an Environment Defenders Office briefing paper says that the draft plan does not meet the legal requirement of the Commonwealth Water Act to return the Basin to sustainable levels of water extraction.

Another big concern about the draft Plan is its failure to deal with the obstacles that stand in the way of delivering environmental water to where it is most needed – on the floodplains. A key problem is liability for flooding private land – and here there is some rare good news. The Australian Floodplain Association, an enterprising group of graziers in New South Wales, is offering the federal government a legal right to flood their properties by creating millions of hectares of voluntary flood easements. This is because the graziers (who are not irrigators) recognise the benefits that floods bring in terms of increasing the productivity of their land. The inconvenience of flooding is well worth it to them!

Despite the howls of protest from the irrigation sector at the MDBA’s public meetings and the repeated assertions that the draft Plan will sound the death knell for irrigation communities, there are many farmers, irrigators included, who appreciate the value of a robust Basin Plan. John Pettigrew of the Environmental Farmers Network spells out the benefits to irrigators here

The draft Plan is out for consultation until mid-April so we have a big opportunity to make it a better plan that actually delivers for the Basin’s rivers. One way to do that is by signing our submission

You can do it in a moment, or use the information on our site to write your own submission. The focus then shifts to the federal water minister and parliament to get them to insist that the only plan they will accept is one that provides a sustainable future for our rivers and the communities that depend on them. And we are going to need all the help we can get for that!