When I read the recent Murray Darling Basin Authorities’ “Environmental Watering Priorities” paper and the South Australian Government’s celebratory “Implementing the MDB Plan” release, my grey hair stands on end. I have never read such artificial, misleading nonsense.
Who do these water bureaucrats think they are? God? Do they not understand that following the ravages of the Millennium Drought, in the time honoured way Nature has in recent years caused some wonderful big flow events which have seen our rivers, floodplains and wetlands burst back into robust abundance. This “drought and flooding rains” regime is perfectly natural. But to admit this just doesn’t fit the guilt riddled dark green ruling philosophy. We just have to blame man for droughts and now assume man can create the floods.
I have long contended that the biggest mistake we make in managing our water storages is that we grossly over state our level of control and grossly under estimate the variability of our river flows and the sheer magnitude of the big flow events. Whilst we have very constructively smoothed out the major rivers available water by building dams and evening out the flow, we need to recognise that man really just “fiddles at the edges” of this massive variability.
A significant man made impact on the MDB is,of course, the Snowy Mountains Scheme. It is interesting to contrast the enthusiastic pro-development philosophy which drove the building of the post world war 2 Snowy Scheme compared with today’s anti-development dark green ideology. A reading of the literature of the time reveals how the diversion of water to the sunshine laden, dry western plains was the main purpose of the scheme with hydro electricity generation seen as an important by-product. Since the corporatisation of the Snowy this has been reversed with water storage and diversion for irrigation playing second fiddle to electricity generation. A proper review of the MDB should include a review of this and the Snowy Hydro agreement. It seems that more could be achieved on the water storage and diversion front without negatively impacting electricity generation. It should be noted that Eucumbene Dam is the largest single storage in the MDB. It should also be noted that consideration of the Snowy scheme was expressly excluded from the MDB Plan study and the Lower lakes were only given passing consideration.
The “greenies” and others blamed the natural effects of drought on water extractions and called these impacts “degradation” when in reality they were perfectly natural. The official statistics clearly show that water extractions during the drought were greatly reduced and our system of entitlements governed by water sharing plans and seasonal allocations, were highly effective. There simply was not enough water for anyone.
The most serious negative environental impact of man’s actions on the MDB is the disgraceful act of degrading the Lower Lakes by building The Barrages and killing the Lakes marine estuary nature. In particular, the refusal to allow salt water to flood the Lakes during the drought when there was no fresh water available from upstream. This allowed the emergence of acid sulfate soils from a drying surface.
There is now a plan emanating from knowledgeable residents who live on the Lakes, to return the Lakes back towards their marine nature by dynamically managing The Barrages and allowing the entry of healthy oxygenated salt water when tides and south-westerly winds create the right conditions. But, with the South Australian Government fixated on what they term a “fresh water solution” and Mark Butler, yet another South Australian politician, becoming the new Federal Water Minister, I wont be holding my breath.