Thursday, August 07, 2008

Irreversible destruction of the Murray River's lower lakes

The imminent destruction of the freshwater ecology of the lower lakes of the Murray River on the grounds that upstream freshwater supplies are insufficient to flush them out and that stored water suppliesin the river system must be safeguarded for human consumption might well be justified on triage grounds but it is nevertheless an alarming policy failure. The present government can hardly be held entirely responsible for the current situation - this represents a policy failure by government that goes back decades. The claim by Greg Hunt that Penny Wong is behaving like Saddam Hussein in destroying Ramsar listed wetlands is completely over the top - the catastrophe that is emerging also implies culpability through the successive policy failures of Coalition governments. Of course Wong's claim that there are insufficient water resources should be thoroughly checked out but it seems likely to be an accurate summary of the current situation.

The inability of state and federal governments in Australia to reduce the excessive use of water in irrigation reflects a political failure of the Australian federal system. The only possible benefit from the destruction of these Ramsar-listed wetlands might be the impulse it provides governments in Australia to finally seek to address the environmental catastrophe emerging in the Murray-Darling as a consequence of excessive water use in agriculture. Labor is in power both federally and at state levels - it should now act to buy back excessive water use entitlements to prevent these types of situations recurring with the hope that the seemingly irreversible ecological effects of being forced to flood the lower lakes with saltwater can eventually be reversed.


Spiros said...

Cubbie Station uses (on average) 200000 megalitres of water per year to make $50million of cotton (Wikipedia).

$50 million is nothing as far as the economy is concerned, but 200000 megalitres is 40% of the capacity of Sydney Harbour. And that is every year.

There must be higher value uses for all that water. Stopping the destruction of the lower lakes is one of them.

observa said...

Well in Adelaide where that water can run downhill we're going to spend $1.4bill on a 50GL pa desal plant. Now at only 5% return on investment that SA Water pays the State Govt in dividends that's $70mill a year. 200000 ML for $50mill total production you say? Adelaide water consumers would be happy to pay them to sit on their backsides for that.

Chris H. said...

There's some interesting discussion on the Murray lower lakes at where the poster suggests that it may be too late. They point out that evaporation takes a huge toll on any water entering the riverine system and, incidentally, the rainfall is lower than previously.

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