Squandering a precious resource

DESPITE repeated calls for more effective use of scarce resources, Governments have been accused of continuing to squander precious water.

WASTEFUL. Citrus grower Neil Eagle says a precious resource is being wasted.

WASTEFUL. Citrus grower Neil Eagle says a precious resource is being wasted.

In a time of drought they should be fully focused on maximising all available supplies but unfortunately this is not the case, according to veteran Barham citrus grower, Neil Eagle.

The long-time water advocate has spent many decades studying our rivers and what makes them both healthy and productive.

His frustration at alleged government mismanagement of river systems has never been greater.

"Politicians and the bureaucracy which is supposed to serve our communities ignore the true reasons why we have communities in crisis," Mr Eagle said.

"From their city offices they are far removed from what is needed to effectively use our resources, and have no interest in listening to those with local knowledge who have lived and breathed the rivers for generations."

Mr Eagle said there continue to be calls for recovery of more water from production, but these are being made for political gain and go against the advice of numerous independent reports.

He cited the House of Representatives Interim Report in the Living Murray (2004), which was supported by 10 of the 11 cross-party politicians on the committee, including the New South Wales border region's Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley.This report concluded that our rivers were in quite good health, not in decline and no additional water should be taken from production because the science was not there to justify such action.

Then there was the report from Harvard University's Professor John Briscoe, who stated: "Prior to the 2007 Water Act, Australia was considered the world leader in Arid Zone water management, but has now lost its way and will not regain that position until the 2007 Water Act is re-drafted to once again ensure proper balance between the socio, economic and environmental needs."

Mr Eagle pointed out there were 31 recommendations from the 2016 Senate Inquiry, none of which included removing more water from production, but squarely called on better management of our resources.

"This inquiry certainly addressed the 'elephant in the room', which was squandering of our most precious resource by South Australia," he said.

He said it was also time to end the myths about over-extraction in the Southern Basin and look at the real problem of water losses.

"The MDBA reported that in 2017/18 there were 952,000 megalitres (equivalent of two Sydney Harbours) discharged over the barrages and out to sea. A similar amount evaporates each year in the Lower Lakes. In this year, New South Wales Murray irrigators received only 51 per cent of their allocation.

"In 2018 a further 350,000 megalitres was discharged over the barrages, at a time when NSW Murray irrigators are on zero per cent."

Mr Eagle said various options for better water management had been submitted to governments, but they get ignored.

"The private sector has invested heavily into our food bowl, whether this is improving irrigation systems and farm lay-outs, or setting up local businesses to support farmers.

"Despite this, with the stroke of a pen governments have the ability to undermine regional confidence, making our nation an international embarrassment in water management.

"The only final solution to prevent a re-run of the Millennium Drought and squandering three million megalitres of water, with adverse effects to South Australia and upstream states, is to construct Lock Zero at Wellington. With this solution, in extreme low flow years the Lower Lakes can return to an estuarine state and interact with the sea," Mr Eagle said.

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