The Millennium Drought had a major impact on the Basin.(The renowned recuperative power of the Australian landscape has been demonstrated in its spectacular recovery since the drought broke.)
Water extractions were well controlled by the adaptive management approach embodied in the allocation process, guided by the Water Sharing Plans.
Natural impacts from extreme drought are being incorrectly labelled as chronic ill-health.
At the top of the Murray and Murrumbidgee the Snowy Scheme is not being managed in a manner which optimises its original water conservation objectives.
At the bottom, the Murray River has been deprived of its estuary by The Barrages and this has created serious environmental problems, as has the diversion of fresh water flows in the South-East of S.A. to the sea, flows which once drained to the Southern Lagoon of The Coorong.
Asking the CSIRO to come up with single figure Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDL’s) for the rivers within the Basin reveals a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of our inland rivers and their massive variability.To argue that these numbers are “averages” doesn’t help, given the enormous spreads around the averages.In using absolute numbers as the MDBA has done, to prescribe acceptable extractions/diversions limits without relating these to actual flows (availability), is really nonsense.
Ignoring the legal complexities of the Commonwealth Water Act (2007), one has to wonder whether we are proposing to “throw the baby out with the bathwater’ in moving to a centralised Commonwealth water management regime. This is particularly the case when one considers the lack of water knowledge and skills at the Commonwealth level.
Our current water bureaucrats could do worse than study how the existing control system operates. It works rather well.