Environment Victoria has criticised state and federal water ministers over their “hard hat mentality” to the Murray-Darling Basin, labelling infrastructure projects expensive and ineffective when what rivers really need is more water.“Governments are overlooking the simple fact that rivers need more water poured into them, not more concrete,” said Environment Victoria’s Healthy Rivers Campaign Manager Juliet Le Feuvre.
The criticism comes after the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) released a stocktake of infrastructure projects today.
“The declining health of the Murray-Darling Basin is an ecological issue, not an engineering challenge. We need to put less emphasis on infrastructure and more on delivering what the Murray River actually needs – more water,” said Le Feuvre.
“Rivers have got into strife because of the thousands of dams, weirs, regulators and channels that divert water for consumptive use. Pouring yet more concrete is not the way to return rivers to health. The river is a natural system, not an irrigation paddock.
“It’s about returning more water to the river, and the simplest and most efficient way to do that is through water buybacks.”
The MDBA’s stocktake of infrastructure features projects designed to reduce the need for environmental water recovery under the $13 billion Basin Plan. While the stocktake brings some welcome rigour to the assessment of potential projects, it highlights the over-reliance that the Victorian and other state governments are placing on concrete, rather than water, to restore the river to health.
“This infrastructure-only approach risks the $13 billion Plan delivering on its core objective of restoring environmental flows and real water to stressed rivers and wetlands,” said Le Feuvre.
The stocktake sounds a warning on the recovery of the additional 450 gigalitres (GL) for improved environmental outcomes, saying there is ‘considerable risk’ that the target will not be met.
“Failing to recover this ‘up water’ would be disastrous for rivers and wetlands, especially as we are heading into a return of drought conditions and the impacts of climate change are becoming obvious,” said Le Feuvre.
“The risk is increased by the Victorian government’s surprise decision to rule out further water buybacks in Victoria. Failing to use the most cost effective means of water recovery just increases the pressure on the Basin Plan.
“It’s time that governments ended their romance with infrastructure and concentrated on what the river really needs, which is real water that can be delivered to create real improvements in ecosystem health and resilience.”
Juliet Le Feuvre, Healthy Rivers Campaign Manager, 0428770019