The Ministerial Council (MINCO) recently met in Canberra to ratify projects targeted at delivering 650 gigalitres (GL) of the Murray Darling Basin Plan’s 2750 GL via water savings.
While we agree it’s good our state governments have actually demonstrated they can agree about some principles, but there are ongoing concerns about how these projects will be implemented and who will shoulder the risks.
These “environmental” proposals are supposedly intended to mimic natural conditions by altering river flow regimes and reducing the impact of flooding generating further environmental benefit.
The end of June deadline allows little time to ground truth or provide risk assessments.
The Department of Primary Industries Water (DPI Water) appears unable to deliver crucial detail for rural regional communities.
The catch cry of “just trust us” is resonating with an unconvincing rhetoric we’ve all heard too many times before.
Inland communities need to know the package details, the specific, measurable ‘environmental outcomes’ and where any water that’s ‘saved’ will actually be stored.
Some of the projects are complicated and will require meaningful consultation with rural communities.
The only way to ‘mimic’ natural conditions is to remove all storage and regulatory infrastructure or to just pretend they aren’t there.
The promise of improved water reliability for irrigators or reduced flooding under these mimicked natural conditions is counter intuitive.
We built the storage and regulatory systems because, naturally, this is the ‘land of drought and flooding rains!’
The various departments are still focusing on volumes under assumptions and ’environmental outcomes’ which aren’t clearly defined and therefore difficult to assess.
The only winners we can see will be state and federal ‘environmental bureaucracies’ as they place their hands on more stored water resources at the expense of inland communities. They can also ‘mark their own homework’.
This is essentially a transfer of wealth and assets which we cannot afford if we are to remain vibrant and resilient.
This ‘redefinition’ of regional rural environmental assets exemplifies a problem endemic in Australia.
The notion of “just trust us” is unimpressive as our communities are increasingly requested to give away more and more in the name of politics.
The lack of validation of these suite of projects is continuing to leave the most important questions unanswered.