Both sides of federal politics are championing the Water Act as a response to problems in the Murray-Darling Basin but what is happening at the present moment illustrates just how wrong this response is. Every valley in the Basin is in flood, some for the third and fourth time in twelve months, and most dams are overflowing. But what is happening with water management?
First, we have irrigation farmers looking at the best crop prices in a generation. They have the land, the equipment, the knowhow and the desire to generate income for rural communities, and are facing rivers in flood, but, courtesy of the bureaucracies, cannot buy water from the State which has capped their entitlements at 62% maximum.
Secondly, government departments, established to administer water and the various environmental requirements, are wasting water by flushing it into already flooded rivers. In the last five months Snowy Hydro have sent over 2 million megalitres of water into the Murray, Murrumbidgee, Tumut, and Snowy rivers – when holding dams were full and the rivers were already flooded or running a banker. This is water that should have been held in Eucumbene Dam as river flow and to satisfy future irrigation requirements. It has been flushed to the sea to waste.
All the Water Act has done is spawn a bureaucracy of over 300 people at the Federal level with no task to perform, other than waste over $60M per year and publish “scary” but mostly false reports.
The major parties are in denial mode and fragile political egos cannot accept that they are responsible for passing a Bill that is having devastating effects on communities and the environment.
Neither side of politics seem capable of accepting that they got this wrong and that there is a better way of assisting the environment, the people who live and work in the Murray-Darling Basin, and Australia’s future.
Politicians, it seems, cannot see the water for the flood.
Ron Pike is a water consultant and third generation irrigation farmer.