THE MURRAY-DARLING BASIN

  • The River is in crisis. More water is being taken out than is sustainable.
  • There is legislation passed in recognition of the crisis: The Water Act 2007
  • The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is responsible for developing a Plan to manage the system.
  • Peer reviewed science supports 4000GL as the amount of water needed to be returned to the system to achieve the outcomes of the Water Act.
  • There is a budget: $10 billion for water buybacks and infrastructure improvements.
  • Is there the will to act?

WHAT IS AT STAKE?

The Murray-Darling Basin (MDB), fed by our three longest rivers (the Murray, Darling River and Murrumbidgee), covers approximately one-seventh of the continent.

The Basin extends from the channel country in Queensland, through NSW (where the Murray meets the Darling at Wentworth), to the Australian Alps, Victoria’s north-east and the Riverina, through the Riverland of South Australia and onto the Great Southern Lakes, Alexandrina and Albert, the Murray Mouth and the Coorong.

According to the Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, some three million Australians inside and outside the MDB are directly dependent on its water. About 85 per cent of all irrigation in Australia takes place in the Basin, which supports an agricultural industry worth more than $9 billion per annum.

But how do we value the river system which supports our communities and economies in the MDB? The MDB contains more than 30,000 wetlands, including 16 internationally significant wetlands that provide habitat for migratory birds. What is a wetland worth? To whom? According to what criteria? How much water does the eco-system need to survive? to flourish?

Did you know that each year approximately 2 million tonnes of salt generated by the MDB system needs to be flushed out through the Murray Mouth?

2011: Murray Mouth - open and flushing

Did you know that the Murray Mouth, having remained open to the sea for millennia, closed over completely in 1981, but allocations continued?

Murray Mouth - 1981

WE NEED A PLAN

  • based on credible, peer-reviewed science;
  • with a minimum return of 4,000 GL to the river;
  • to flush the 2 millions tonnes of salt out through the Murray Mouth every year;
  • that provides optimal flows to maintain essential ecosystem services;
  • with clear and transparent targets;
  • that is value for money.

Still coming … with Christmas?

According to the communique of the Ministerial Council, 4 November 2011,  the Draft Plan for the Murray-Darling Basin will be released by the MDB Authority on Monday 28 November 2011 and a 20 week consultation period will begin.

This new date is but one of many delays.

VOICES FOR THE MURRAY-DARLING: NGOs working together for Our Rivers, Our Lifeblood

As we wait for the Draft Plan from the MDBA, the alliance of NGOs, Our Rivers, Our Lifeblood has continued to campaign for a Plan that will ensure a healthy river, communities and economies.

  • 11 July 2011: The agreed position of the Alliance is published. It outlines what a Basin Plan needs to deliver - joint-position-mdbvoices-keyoutcomes5;
  • Alliance members meet regularly, discuss ‘current thinking’ as communicated by the MDBA;
  • 7 October 2011: Alliance members write to the Chair of the MDBA to express their concern re the ‘current thinking’ which has been communicated to them at a briefing by the MDBA in Sydney 4 October 2011;
  • 12 October 2011: A similar letter is sent to Minister Tony Burke;
  • 21 October 2011: MDBA Chair Craig Knowles responds. Does this letter address the concerns expressed by the NGOs? Read this response from The Wilderness Society;
  • 5 November 2011: More ‘current thinking’, this time from the federal government re water buybacks.
  • The Alliance continues to advocate for buybacks as value for money and in the interests of the River, communities and the economy;
  • 7 November, Friends of the Earth release The Murray-Darling Basin Plan: How much water does the Murray-Darling Basin need, and where?

A PHOTOGRAPHIC ARCHIVE

Walking to the Murray Mouth: On 3 January 2011, Diane Bell began a new project to document the changing conditions at the Murray Mouth. Her collegial explorations can be tracked through the numbered ‘Walks to the Murray Mouth’ posts on the ‘Updates and Events’ page.

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THE RIVER LAKES AND COORONG ACTION GROUP

RLCAG was formed in January 2007 with the specific purpose of opposing the proposed weir at Wellington across the River Murray and addressing the issue of over-allocation.

The Wellington Weir? Success. The SA government announced it would not proceed with the weir in October 2010.

Over-allocation? The struggle continues and the alliance of environmental NGOs is strong.

Since its inception, the RLCAG has worked to improve all aspects of the River Murray, Lakes and Coorong and

  • prevent any further degradation;
  • increase the water flows in the River, Lakes and Coorong by lobbying governments and users of the River system;
  • liaise with appropriate bodies over the management of the River Murray, Lakes Alexandrina and Albert and the Coorong, and their immediate surrounds;protect, conserve and enhance the biodiversity of the River, Lakes and Coorong;
  • educate the Community in River Ecology.
  • RLCAG has provided commentary and critique on policies that impact on the health of the River, Lakes and Coorong; conducted seminars; written submissions regarding government inquiries and actions; organised and participated in a range of events; campaigned for environmental water and bioremediation.

    Message? It is simple: A healthy river = healthy communities and healthy economies

    LATEST POSTS

    * 7 November, Friends of the Earth: How much water does the Murray-Darling Basin need, and where?

    * 4 November 2011: Draft delayed (again)

    Coal Seam Gas: Are we fracked? - 29 September 2011

    * 8 July 2011: The Life of a Regulator

    * 27 June 2011: Our Lifeblood, Our River

    * 23 June 2011: South Australian federal politicians pledge support for a strong and credible Basin Plan

    * 6 June 2011: Meeting with the MDBA

    * 2 June 2011: Windsor Inquiry Reports

    * 10 April 2011: RLCAG comments on the latest request from the SA Government to delay the full removal of the regulator at Clayton Bay

    * 18 March 2011: RLCAG submission to the Senate Inquiry re the Water Act 2007

    * 3 January, 2011: Murray Mouth as indicator and icon: A growing photographic archive

    * 22 December, 2010: River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group Inc Submission to the Windsor Inquiry rlcag-submission-mdba-windsor and covering letter rlcag-covering-letter-windsor.

    * 17 December 2010: River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group Inc Submission to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority rlcag-submission-mdba-fver and covering letter rlcag-cover-letter-mdba-fver.

    * 26 October 2010. The Wellington Weir is cancelled The Wellington Weir page has been archived.

    * 18 October 2010, The People’s Forum on Water, Hawke Centre, 5.30-7.30pm, the speeches, the programme and participants

    * 25 September 2010, the regulator at Clayton Bay is ruptured

    * 19 September 2010, the bund at Narrung is breached

    * 20 August 2010: Summary Report

    * 18 August 2010: Water Election Team Reports

    * 10 August 2010: Water Election Team questionnaire released

    * 31 July 2010: Save our Gulf Embassy is launched in Semaphore.

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    * 29 June 2010 Meeting with the Minister at Clayton Bay

    * 30 June 2010 Meeting with the Senate Canberra

    * 3 May 2010 Vale Murray Nicholl

    * April 2010 Dunn’s Lagoon, Regulator? No thanks

    * 20 March 2010: WET, the Water Election Team, releases the results of its Questionnaire to all Candidates in the SA election. See Water Election Team page

    * 14 March 2010: WET joined with Senator Nick Xenophon and Dr Anne Jensen to address Real Water Solution. See Updates and Events page

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    * 25 February 2010: WET launched their questionnaire for all candidates in the upcoming SA election, on the steps of Parliament House. Follow the story on the Water Election Team page and the Updates and Events page on this site.

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    “Pray for rain”, our leaders said. We had two significant “rain events” across the northern Murray-Darling Basin (December 2009-January 2010 and March 2010). Historic rain. It has rained and rained but neither the federal government nor the state government has a coherent plan.

    * The River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group Inc. wrote two Open Letters to the Hon. Julia Gillard, Acting Prime Minister, asking that she intervene in the national interest for the health of the River. Read more on Updates and Events, 12, 15, 16-18 January 2010.

    * Many joined us at the Fresh Water Embassy on the steps of Parliament House in the run to the March 2010 state election (SA), and learned more of our campaign.

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    We the People are on the move…

    • In March 2009, the River, Lakes and Coorong Action Group Inc., the Lower Lakes and Coorong Infrastructure Committee, the Finniss Catchment Group Inc, SA Senator Nick Xenophon (Independent), SA Senator Sarah Hanson-Young (The Greens) and the Hon. David Winderlich, MLC (Democrats) took the message to Adelaide: Lakes Alexandrina and Albert and the Coorong are in a desperate state - but they can be saved. We have continued to build on that coalition.
    • The RLCAG is part of a growing movement in Australia that is working to make water a key issue in upcoming state and federal elections. On October 10 2009, we joined with Water Action Coalition (WAC), launched on July 19, 2009, in a rally that brought 12 different groups to the steps of Parliament House.
    • We have advocated working with nature and low intervention strategies. We have questioned the “science” on which decisions to manage acid sulfate soils with engineering interventions.