Recent comments from the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists have sparked some controversy in regional communities.
The Wentworth Group claimed that in the five years of basin plan operation there has been no upside and Murray Darling ecosystems are in serious decline.
They have not specified where this is occurring nor have they acknowledged that there have been three significant flooding events in the Murray Darling Basin (MDB) since the original reporting.
The MDB has actually been receiving extra “environmental flows” from the start of this century via State and Federal legislations and rules.
The Wentworth Group and many state and federal departments continue to argue that increased volumes of water are the only answer.
Common sense and recent research is indicating otherwise. Our rivers have been increasingly forced to have bank-full flows to deliver ever more water to the lower Murray River, Lower Lakes and the Coorong.
These sustained bank –full flows have created bank slumping and ongoing turbidity. Our river beaches are getting covered with a fine black sludge 10 to 15 cm thick in places.
A recent (June 2017) check of many of these beaches from Hay to Jugiong (500km of river) confirms this. The ecology and water quality of the stream is deteriorating.
Among others, farmers at Collingullie, with 100-year family records, have been unable to warn departments of this widespread degradation. The political mindset is to continue to treat the river as a channel to deliver vast amounts of water via the ‘opinion’ that it improves instream and wetland ecology somewhere ‘downstream’.
Evidence is clearly indicating that this behavior is accelerating degradation. The imbalance in river and stream ecology allows the naturally occurring, but dangerous, cyanobacteria (Blue Green Algae) to spread unchecked resulting in increasing water restrictions and health warnings.
The natural competition to these toxic bacteria is being systematically destroyed by the current ‘just flush it’ mentality. Consistently deep and increasingly turbid water gives cyanobacteria a free run in the rivers.
A long term perspective of river stream and wetland ecology is required with sound ecological monitoring and continually updated data.
If delivering massive quantities of water downstream compromises inland ecology, then it’s logical that we urgently address important issues like riparian zones, invasive species, turbidity and water quality.