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2011 Plan to Return Water to the Murray River

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Submitted By kje2
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The 2011 Plan to Return Water to the Rivers

Over the past 100 years, the average water flow into the MDB has been 21,200 GL per year, however there has been great variability. For example the flow in 1902 was only 5,000 GL but in 1956 it was 57,000 GL. The total flow is both variable and unpredictable. No one knows with any degree of certainty how much water will inflow next year.

The rivers of the MDB are damaged if more water is extracted than is allowed to flow down to the mouth of the Murray. Water is said to be ‘over-allocated’ when this situation exists. This has indeed been the case during some of the drought years between 2002-2010. This extraordinary situation arises because the four states (QLD, NSW, VIC, SA) are able to allocate water to their own irrigators without coordinating with one-another.

Successive Federal Governments (Howard, Rudd, Gillard) have proposed returning water to the rivers from irrigators in each state but this has angered the irrigators.

Key questions to be answered are:

* How much annual inflow of water does the MDB river system need to remain healthy? * How much water do irrigators need to sustain current levels of production? * How can the demands of the rivers and the irrigators be reconciled?

In November, 2011 the Murray Darling Basin Authority released its proposal to recommend to Federal Parliament that, henceforth, water allocation to irrigators in the MDB be reduced by 2,750 GL per year. This is illustrated in the pie chart below:

Total inflow into the MDB 2010: 21,200 GL

Read the two media articles attached and answer the questions in the space provided.

Article 1: SMH, 13 October 2010 by Ross Gittins

What does Gittins mean in his statement that ‘The natural environment is utterly unreasonable and unforgiving’? How does this influence planning for the future of the MDB?

Gittins refers to the MDB as a river system in which if we make mistakes and are unable to assist the MDB to recovery it won’t be able to recover from the lack of water and vegetation. The MDB system is in a harsh and varying ecosystem which at any time could prevent it from flowing. We have taken advantage of the system and now it is time to pay that debt back to the environment and save the system as the MDB is the only place in Australia able to uphold the amount of produce produced in that area and environment.

Article 2: SMH, 28 November 2011 by David Wroe & Tom Arup

When is it proposed that the new limits/diversions will be introduced?

These limits/diversions are supposed to be imposed by 2019.

What do irrigators say will be the effects of the new limits/diversions?

Irrigators claim that by enforcing these new limits/diversions the farming communities throughout the MDB will be at risk because of the lack of water for their produce.

On the other hand, what does the spokesperson for the Australian Conservation Foundation say?

That by enforcing the new limits/diversions on the irrigators and farmers, and pumping 2750 billion litres into the MDB will at least come out with an environmental increase in the MDB. He says that the target for these limits/diversions is for a healthier river system that flows and is alive.

In your opinion, will it ever be possible to please all the stakeholders in the MDB?

The MDB system covers a huge area and therefore comes under different governments and owners across the total are of the basin. This makes it difficult to all agree on decisions made towards the basin as others want things differently than everyone else, so it is therefore near to impossible to please all the stakeholders that hold different parts of the MDB. As they all differ on their opinions on what to do with the Basin.…...

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