Today the news radio I am listening to is all abuzz with the details of the Murray River Draft Plan. Every time the Murray River, the Murray Darling Basin and reallocation of the water flow is mentioned there are many angry voices wanting to have their say, and looking at the Trove articles this is not an unusual or new debate.
In 1902 there were probably a lot less people along the Murray to keep happy, yet it seems they still had difficulties negotiating water conservation. I fully expect an article with similar wording to this to be reproduced in the newspapers in a few months time. That will be when the Murray Darling Basin Authority find that there has been nothing actually achieved after the 20 weeks of planned consultation.
At the top end of the river people who have planted cotton and rice (and a multitude of other crops) are needing a lot of water to keep their crops healthy and doing all they can to keep their allocations as high as possible. Much of our food supply comes from areas supplied with water from the Murray so it is important that the farms that need the water get it.
The people at the lower reaches of the Murray (the Lower Lakes) are complaining that not enough water is flowing at their end to flush out the mouth which is an internationally important wetland, with birds from as far away as Russia using it as a breeding ground. If the mouth is not regularly flushed the salinity level rises to dangerously high levels, affecting both farms and wildlife. I heard it reported that the salinity has been as high as five times level of sea water, killing the wildlife and even leading to the death of young cattle on some farms. You would think allowing a river to flush regularly would be something that anyone using logic would actually agree with wouldn’t you?
There are two types of people interested in adjusting the flow, environmentalists and farmers. How can you keep people with such different agendas happy?
Another big problem is that the Murray River flows through New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. There is no way three states are going to agree on missing out on precious water supplies and some other state getting it instead. Poor South Australia is at the tail end and is affected by what the states controlling the water flow in the upper reaches allow through.
The current recommendation is to return 2750 billion litres to the river although South Australia say that these cuts are too small and that it will take at least 4000 billion litres to have the desired effect at their end. There are suggestions that improved irrigation in the upper reaches would have a better effect. To me that just sounds like something totally logical that will never make its way into being.
I will be interested to see what really happens at the end of the consultation period. I suspect that whatever changes in regards to the flow, nothing will change with the people and everyone will still be unhappy with their lot. Short of a dramatic elevation in the rainfall levels there will never be enough water to keep everyone happy.