“The water is as brown as my bum.”
That’s how leading wetland expert Geoff Sainty described the water conditions at Barren Box Swamp, which has been suffering from bouts of algae outbreaks and harmful particles in the water for years.
It wasn’t meant to be this way; in 2006 Murrumbidgee Irrigation was lavished with praise and awards for turning a desolate swamp into a thriving ecosystem and water storage area for irrigators.
But now Geoff Sainty is “extremely bloody critical” of what he sees as “stupid” water management that “ruined” a promising swamp.
On his frequent trips to the Barren Box Swamp he keeps tabs on the dwindling flora and fauna, and he said it breaks his heart every time.
“I care about these bloody beautiful plants and animals that live in the water,” Mr Sainty said.
“They’re a wonderful group of little organisms and they need the best bloody treatment you could think of – not this.”
His intense love of water plants made it that much more painful for him to watch as the native swamp plants of Barren Box Swamp gradually disappeared into the brown turbid waters.
He argues that Murrumbidgee Irrigation and Griffith City Council are to blame, and he has a number of choice words for the both of them – none of which are publishable.
In his view they have failed not only the environment, but also the irrigators who are receiving poor quality water onto their farms and water systems.
He claims the bad decisions that led to this predicament are so numerous you could write a book about it.
Two of his main criticisms are of the layout of the redesigned swamp and the sediments that had been left on the swamp bed.
But Murrumbidgee Irrigation chairman Frank Sergi said he rejects Mr Sainty’s claims that the swamp is being mismanaged.
“It’s not a case of mismanagement; we operate in the best possible way we can at the moment,” Mr Sergi said.
“If you go back far enough Barren Box Swamp was basically a drain, but since then we’ve done a fair bit to improve it.”
Murrumbidgee Irrigation have said Barren Box Swamp is still performing well, pointing to the 20,000 megalitres of water returned to the Snowy River and Murray Rivers every year.
They also list among their achievements the reduction in the percentage of water lost to evaporation, as well as the water sent to Wah Wah irrigators and the preservation of Aboriginal heritage around that site.
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