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Water Summit « Previous | |Next »
November 9, 2006

Last Tuesday's Water Summit between the federal government and the eastern premiers (plus SA's Mike Rann) was a bit of a fizzle wasn't it. There was lots of talk about co-operation, a further commitment of $200 million for drought assistance (bringing total spending on the current crisis to $2.3 billion) and the speeding up of the timetable for water trading between states, and a commitment to the projects under the National Water initiative. It was mostly about more subsidies for people (irrigators) and little for the environment. Talk of draining the wetlands to help irrigators kept on surfacing. in the context of a water crisis.

NSW Premier Iemma thought that water trading would reduce the over allocation of water licences even though it just shifts water from one space to another; Anna Bligh from Queensland said Queensland was part of the Murray- Darling Basin; Victoria Premier Bracks was strong on co-operation and silent on overallocation and buying back licences. The SA Premier, Mike Rann, let the cat out of the bag----the drought is more typical of a one in a thousand rather than a one in a hundred year event, and it was an indication of the future under global warming. So the original water allocations were based on assessments of delivery to catchments were no longer climatically realistic.

Spin, appearing to do something, managing short term electoral poiltics and the National Party's business as usual are not going to solve this one.

The Wentworth Group agrees with Rann's assesment though not the 'thousand year drought' headline. It says:

This change in climate may be part of a natural cycle or it might be caused by climate change orit might be a combination of both. Whatever the cause, Australia has a problem, because it's stopped raining where we built our cities and where we developed our irrigation infrastructure. We built our modern Australian economy in a period of much higher rainfall and we assumed that it would keep on raining. But it hasn't. Our coastal cities are now running out of water, irrigators are staring upstream at empty dams and we’re trying to farm where there’s less rain. Many of our iconic wetlands have not had a drink for over a decade.

It's serious. Yet irrigators, such as John Cox, a critus grower at Waikerie in South Australia, can say in an op-ed in the Australian Financial Review that:
Irrigators have no problem with some of this 500GL [for environmental flows under the Living Murray initiative] being used for renewal of floodplains, but the question they ask is why this water must come from efficiency saving from irrigators than from the senseless water of water flowing out to sea to keep the Murray Mouth open.

Cox has no understanding that this flow of water keeps the Coorong healthy, or that there is not enough water flowing down the river to keep the mouth open. Hence the dredging. The River Murray for irrigators like Cox is just an irrigation channel, not a river.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 7:06 AM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)

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» Corrong snaps from Junk for Code
Two different faces of the Coorong, which is part of the Murray mouth, and so is a tidal estuary. Gary Sauer-Thompson, Coorong, 2006 A tidal estuary that is suffering from a lack of fresh river flows coming down the River Murray.... [Read More]