A new report into the Murray Darling Basin from the CSIRO has been lauded as “a step in the right direction”, but one that is long overdue.
The report puts forward a draft method to assess environmental benefits of complementary measures.
Complimentary measures are best described as non-flow tactics aimed at helping the environment.
They include the installation of fishways, fish diversion screens, the release of the carp herpes virus and habitat restoration.
Murrami rice grower Debbie Buller says complimentary measures have been discussed before.
“Those complimentary measures are something we’ve all been talking about for decades,” she said.
“When you’re talking about water quality and river health, these are the sort of things that have a major impact.”
Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) head of environmental management, Carl Binning acknowledged the benefits of complimentary measures, but they “cannot serve as substitutes for flow related outcomes”.
“Complementary measures are not a new concept – the Basin Plan acknowledges that other actions, along with water recovered for the environment, can provide benefits,” he said.
He also acknowledged that a lot of people around the basin preferred a range of non-flow tactics when helping the environment, rather than adding water to the river.
While the measures are not currently part of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism, he says they are looking at ways of implementing them as part of strategies to achieve Basin Plan outcomes.
MIA Citrus Grower Vito Mancini says measures like these were a decent start.
“Every season, all irrigators find ways to boost productivity and lowering water use has been the number one tool in doing this.”
“By investing in new and efficient structures and techniques, the environment can gain some ground to be as effective as what farmers have led the charge on.”
Mrs Buller is hopeful, but concerned about how a water value will be put on complimentary measures.
“How do you put a gigalitre value on getting rid of a carp, for instance?”
Water campaigner Paul Pierotti said the report was “welcome news”.
“Rather than simply talking about random volumes of water, real environmental issues like plagues of destructive carp, cold water pollution and solutions are being discussed,” he said.
“Rather than this being called complimentary measures, it should be the core Basin Plan focus.”