AS A plan to slash water for irrigation looms large over the MIA, a Griffith councillor has begun a crusade for the construction of a new dam in the Murray-Darling Basin.
At tomorrow night’s council meeting, Councillor Dino Zappacosta will recommend a sub-committee be formed to gather information and start lobbying for a dam to guarantee the availability of water for food production in the region.
The draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan, released in November 2011, has proposed the return of 930 gigalitres of irrigation water to the environment through government buybacks and efficiency upgrades.
Believing there had to be a better way to secure water for the basin, Cr Zappacosta decided to take matters into his own hands.
“I firmly believe now is the time to start planning for more dams in Australia,” Cr Zappacosta said.
“We’ve got to start somewhere and I think Griffith City Council is in prime position to start the movement.
“Griffith was built on the strength of irrigation and unless farmers and businesses start to see a secure future for our water, the area will continue to disintegrate.”
Cr Zappacosta was aware of studies that had been carried out into increasing water storage over the past 40 years but said all had fallen on deaf ears or been put into the “too hard” basket.
It has been nearly a century since Burrinjuck Dam was built as a security measure for local farmers following the federation drought.
Local dam proponent Tom Marriott applauded Cr Zappacosta’s initiative, saying it would be an “excellent start” to changing the premise of the basin plan.
“All the money spent on useless inquiries could have been spent on building a dam and all the water we’ve received in the region this year could have been stored,” Mr Marriott said.
“To close down irrigation as proposed is such a waste – we’re just stepping further and further backwards instead of making plans to feed ourselves and the world.”
The idea of building a dam is nothing new – local irrigation groups have been floating the idea since the release of the doomed guide to the basin plan in October 2010.
When questioned about dams at Griffith’s water rally in December 2011, federal water minister Tony Burke said he had “never rejected a submission” to build more dams in the basin.
But the idea of a new dam has already been rejected by a number of stakeholders throughout the basin, particularly the Greens.
Riverina Greens secretary Ray Goodlass believed dams would present a short-term solution but cause harm in the long run.
“Though I am aware of the need for water for agriculture, I think we have to look at the bigger picture and safeguard the health of the river system,” Mr Goodlass said.
“A dam won’t do that. The river is already stressed and another dam would just be full of water that would normally be flowing down the river.”