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We can only have thriving farms, wildlife and communities with a healthy river
Let's ensure the Coorong, lakes and river communities in SA have a voice.
The Australian Conservation Foundation is touring Australia this September with the Healthy Rivers Roadshow which offers locals from right across the Murray-Darling Basin in South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland the opportunity to come along and have their voices heard on their issues concerning the river.
You will hear how our major river system, which is home to more than 2 million people and 16 Ramsar-listed wetlands, is being threatened. You will hear how some passionate people are helping the river system and how you can get involved to help our rivers thrive and our communities and wildlife survive.
Many communities have been doing a large amount of work, but may not know what others are doing, so the roadshow is a means of bringing communities together, to discuss and hear what is happening from Dubbo to Broken Hill, Wodonga to Adelaide to the Murray mouth – and everywhere in between. People are coming together for some river loving local events and help increase the momentum.
Meningie - Meningie Bowling Club Wednesday 20 September, 6.30pm.
Goolwa – Fleurieu Function Centre, Thursday 21 September, 6:30pm.
Adelaide – Walkerville Town Hall, Friday 22 September, 6:30pm
This Healthy Rivers Roadshow is a way of bringing people together from different sectors of the community.
Why is this so important to us in South Australia?
Do you remember the numerous media reports between 2001 and 2009 of southeast Australia experiencing one of the most severe droughts in world history? These droughts resulted in the almost drying of our surface water resources for irrigation and domestic purposes in the Murray-Darling basin.
In South Australia, the mouth of the Murray-Darling river at Goolwa and Coorong was usually idyllic scenes of recreational boating and sailing and anglers fishing in waist-deep, cool, fresh water. However, the river system was so depleted it experienced irreparable damage to irrigation-dependent communities and agricultural production.
Do you remember the media reports of professional fishermen in the Murray mouth areas who were unable to earn a living due to insufficient water? Their boats rested on the muddy river bottom.
Lake Medindie Photo: Jeremy Buckingham
Do you remember that once prime dairy farms were unable to survive due to no water? When they turned on their taps they got just a muddy sludge. It is hard to imagine, but some families had no water for drinking and domestic use. SA Water introduced water rationing policy in Adelaide and suburban areas.
South Australian politicians pleaded with the wise men in the east, but were told they had no water to spare for us because they were experiencing severe drought conditions along the river too. Even after an interstate delegation visited our Coorong sectors our pleas for more water were ignored.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a historic, bipartisan agreement about how to use the water. In 2012, John Howard, Australia's Prime Minister urged the four states which the Murray-Darling flows through to give control of the river system to the Federal Government.
It was signed into law by then-prime minister, Julia Gillard on November 22, 2012, after the Commonwealth reached an accord with each of the Basin states: Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, but the plan still remains highly controversial.
We heard many reports of Australia being plagued by a weather pattern known as El Niño, but it is now quite clear the water shortages in the Murray-Darling Basin were not entirely caused by nature.
In July 2017, the ABC's Four Corners program exposed how the historic, bipartisan agreements reached in the "how to use the water according to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan" were being abused by a select number of vast cotton plantations of Northern NSW and Southern Queensland. Obviously this issue needs to be dealt with by the Federal Government in the administration of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan that was supposed to control the use of environmental water that flows down our longest river system has obviously not gone far enough to return the fragile rivers to a healthy condition to maintain dependent communities and agricultural production. Some still argue the plan didn't go far enough in favour of the environment and won't return the rivers to health. Others say it went too far, causing irreparable damage to irrigation-dependent communities and agricultural production.
What is the Basin Plan and what is needed to make sure it works?
The plan that was supposed to control powerful irrigators' illegal water use through their tampering with water meters from our fragile rivers has failed. This 'water grab' has resulted in environmental water bought by tax payers is going into huge man-made water storages; some private dams have been compared to Sydney Harbor, to grow cotton, which goes against the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
One of the largest cotton growers in the Barwon-Darling river system has huge dams and profits from selling water to smaller farmers and graziers. During drought periods these struggling farmers and graziers have purchased water for their sheep and cattle, which is not a sound, fair and efficient outcome for our agriculture producers and economy in Australia.
While the cotton grower profits from selling his illegally obtained water, the sale can make it harder to deliver water to other irrigators, such as farmers and graziers. This can also reduce the whole district's capacity to grow things, which in-turn might affect employment. If jobs disappear and people need to go elsewhere for work, that can hurt businesses in the town, or the local school might have to close.
"It's very disappointing to see what we thought was a jurisdiction acting in good faith, that at some level … they haven't been acting in good faith."
The Healthy Rivers Roadshow meetings will provide opportunities for you to listen, learn and discuss how we can return the rivers to a healthy condition and ensure better and fairer use of the water in irrigation dependent areas. It is vital in South Australia we ensure we receive environmental water more effectively and efficiently in the southern end of the Murray-Darling Basin.
"As water becomes more valuable, people will want to know that it is being used fairly."
The Healthy Rivers Roadshow will provide you the opportunity to find out the current state of play in Policy, Politics and the Environment from a variety of speakers including Local Members, Scientists and Policy Experts. The forum offers the chance for locals from across the Basin to attend and have their voices heard on issues facing the river.
At the Adelaide Healthy Rivers Roadshow, locals will get to hear from, and put questions to, an inspiring panel of passionate people including Dr Anne Jensen, Healthy Rivers Ambassador and Environmental Consultant; Paul Harvey, Murray Darling Basin Authority - Basin Community Committee; as well as Kat McBride and Kate McBride, pastoralists and Healthy River Ambassadors.
The Adelaide forum to be held at the Walkerville Town Hall, 68 Walkerville Terrace, GILBERTON SA. For further details contact Kathy Whitta - (08) 8223 5155