Miners will reap rewards of Murray Darling Basin Plan

Published: October 26, 2011

The Lock The Gate Alliance has taken aim at the forthcoming Murray Darling Basin Plan stating only the mining industry, including coal seam gas projects, will benefit from the proposed Sustainable Diversion Limits.

The Australian Government has committed over $10 billion of taxpayer funds to buy water for the Murray Darling Basin.  The proposed Basin Plan will buy more than 1900 GL over the next 7 years to help return the Basin's rivers, floodplains and wetlands to health.

The best available science indicates that 4000GL are needed to give the Basin a reasonable chance of recovering from decades of over-allocation and drought.

But Lock the Gate Alliance President Drew Hutton says the Murray Darling Basin Authority's current thinking is to allow for more than 2400 GL / annum of additional groundwater extraction.

"Ten billion dollars of taxpayers' money will be spent to ultimately return only about 500GL of water to the Murray Darling Basin," he said.

"This is incredibly poor value for money. The water is being taken with one hand and given away with the other."

Mr Hutton added that there is still a great deal about ground and surface water interactions that aren't understood.

"There is no science behind the proposed increases in groundwater take, just guesses," he said.

"It was precisely a lack of understanding of how the Basin's water systems work that got us into the mess that required Governments to intervene and buy back water for the environment in the first place. 

"The lesson that should have been learnt is that water connects. It connects people and places -  right across the Basin. If we take too much water in one place, other places and other users will be affected.

Mr Hutton said that the community of the Murray Darling Basin should be outraged that all the pain and angst of the past couple of years (about the level of cutbacks that would be imposed by the Murray Darling Basin Plan), would be for a very small return on investment.

"Australia's taxpayers should be outraged and disgusted that much of the water their money is buying will not be used to restore Basin health but will be handed to the mining industry.

In the aquifers where big increases in groundwater take are planned, the water is too salty for agriculture, but not for mining.

"We haven't even begun to talk about water quality in the Murray Darling Basin," Mr Hutton said. "The MDBA certainly hasn't seriously considered the risks presented by millions of tonnes of salt, tonnes of other contaminants, or the impacts of changed flow patterns on ephemeral streams.

"We must be the generation that heeds the lessons of history. It is absolutely unacceptable for the MDBA to hand us a Basin Plan that will turn the MDB into a toxic industrial wasteland."

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