Irresponsible: SA Politicians Unite Against Upstream Communities and Environments

ADELAIDE in South Australia is a one paper town. Everyone reads the Adelaide Advertiser. Today, as usual, it’s full of parochial chatter including a one page advertisement devoted to a statement from all 23 South Australian Federal MPs (Green, Labor and Coalition) blaming the problems of the Lower Lakes and Coorong on upstream irrigators and their “chronic overuse of water”.

Of course the Adelaide Advertiser has never let the facts get in the way of a good story and so, without explaining that there is a local solution to the problem, their journalist Catherine Hockley supports the advertisement organised by the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF) with a nonsense story headlined ‘Politicians unite to rescue the Murray’

This is parochial politics at its worst and shows a complete disregard for upstream environments and communities.

Of course, during the recent drought the Lower Lakes did suffer, and it was so unnecessary. The South Australian government choose to keep the barrages – build across the bottom of the Lake system – closed keeping out the Southern Ocean. Thus the lakes started to dry-up and acid sulphate soils were exposed.

A new website ‘Myth and the Murray’ corrects some of the many myths spun by the Adelaide Advertiser over many years:

1. Murray’s Mouth first closed in 1981.

The narrow breach in the coastal sand bar-dune system, now officially the Murray River’s mouth, was closed when the first European visited the area in 1830.

Charles Sturt described in detail how his men were unable to maneuver their boat from Lake Alexandrina to the Southern Ocean because they were “blocked by sandbars”.

During the recent drought a sand-dredge worked to keep the narrow inlet open. As soon as the drought broke, the dredge was no longer needed.

2. Lakes will become hypersaline.

There is a fear that without the barrages the lakes would become hypersaline, in reality, without the barrages, the natural tidal prism would facilitate scouring of the Murray’s mouth and flushing of the system.

Robert Bourman and his Adelaide University colleagues describe the dramatic change that occurred with the construction of the barrages:

“Originally a vibrant, highly productive estuarine ecosystem of 75,000 ha, characterized by mixing of brackish and freshwater with highly variable flows, barrage construction has transformed the lakes into freshwater bodies with permanently raised water levels; freshwater discharge has been reduced by 75 percent and the tidal prism by 90 percent.”

3. Lakes will become acidic.

During the recent drought the barrages acted as dykes; water levels dropped and Lake Albert dried-up exposing potential acid sulfate soils. These soils are harmless as long as they remain undisturbed and waterlogged, but when exposed to oxygen sulfuric acid forms.

The development of acid sulfate soils can be avoided by restoring the Murray River’s estuary and letting the area fill with seawater during drought.

The Lower Lakes can only be saved with seawater; with a return to their natural estuarine state.

If the Adelaide Advertiser, the ACF and South Australia’s politicians really cared about saving the Lower Lakes they would be getting behind The Myth and the Murray Group and their well-researched and practical solutions…

9 Responses to Irresponsible: SA Politicians Unite Against Upstream Communities and Environments

  1. el gordo June 23, 2011 at 10:54 pm #

    ‘The signing of the pledge follows Newspoll data from earlier this year showing 82 per cent of South Australians want more water returned to the environment in the long term from farms and commercial use.’

    We have to turn this mob around, but where to start?

  2. Marc June 24, 2011 at 10:15 am #

    Unbelievable! Jenny, I can assure you that ‘everyone’ in SA does not read the Adelaide Advertiser – that’s just nonsense!

    Secondly, I don’t think parochialism is unique to SA, the issue here is their basis for parochialism is more in line with your beliefs.

    Parochialism is no good no matter what side of the ‘fence’ you are on.

  3. marc June 24, 2011 at 10:23 am #

    Addendum – the reference to ‘their’ refers to the eastern states.

  4. debbie June 24, 2011 at 4:21 pm #

    I agree Marc.
    State parochial politics from all the M D B States are responsible for a lot of the confusion and misinformation.
    Some of the things I have read about water policy would convince me that it is possible for water to run uphill (without the assistance of a pump) & that it can be created out of thin air (without the assistance of a cloud).
    Seriously, does the A C F really believe that it was upstream irrigation that caused those lakes to be under such severe pressure?
    How come everybody is happily irrigating upstream now and there is also many 1000s of M L pouring out the mouth?
    Gee? Maybe it may have had something to do with the drought?
    Gee? Maybe every part of the M D B suffered?
    Gee? Maybe every State needs to look at better adaptation methods?
    S A certainly needs to look seriously at their own local solutions so that they are less likely to abuse those lakes next time the system is under drought stress. There is no way that upstream storage can do it. When the system is in drought there simply isn’t enough water to keep those lakes at an optimum fresh water level.
    There wasn’t enough to keep upstream water dependant assets at optimum levels either!
    Just because these political type stunts say that it was someone else’s fault doesn’t mean it was.
    The biggest villain was definitely our own variable climate. You know. . . The land of drought and flooding rains?
    Now the villain appears to be parochial and irresponsible politics.
    On this occasion it is S A but Marc is correct that it most certainly is not just them!

  5. Hasbeen June 25, 2011 at 11:52 am #

    I think it is a wonderful idea to turn green, & promote environmental flows in any river when I live at the bottom end of it.

    I also think it is miracalus the way those hallowed environmental flows turn into town, & irrigation water when they reach my pool at the end of that river.

    I think it is even better that I don’t have to spend money on dams & irrigation schemes.

    I also like the fact I can demand that those who have spent much money on dams, & irrigation schemes, release most of that water saved to me, in the name of environment.

    Who wouldn’t be a greenie, at the bottom of a river?

  6. el gordo June 25, 2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Reading through the comments from the story in the Adelaide paper, there were many from low life greens but then I came across ‘an old river family of on the bank, watching’. Posted at 2:50 PM June 23, 2011

    ‘Maybe they should go back and read history before making pledges that support no more than the newer irrigated vineyards and farms on the lower lakes.

    ‘The original plan and the final word of the design engineer was that we were NOT to lock the delta (yes it is a delta system) with the last lock and weir being at Wellington. Yes, that is not there either, removed from the planning as a “cost saving” along with several others.

    For the lakes and river to return the barrages should be removed and open the lakes back up to the sea re-establishing the saline/freshwater cycle that was there for thousands of years and quietly worked fine. There has to be a balance …. locks and weirs upstream to regulate (not stop but regulate) the flow and the lakes back to their original condition.

  7. Susan June 27, 2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Thanks for the tip el gordo. I wonder if that ‘original plan’ is somewhere in the state library archives…

    If you’re interested in a bit of barrage history that nobody in SA advertises, this is a gem…

  8. Simon June 27, 2011 at 10:21 pm #

    I grew up in Meningie on Lake Albert. As a kid I fished the area and got to know the local environment. I was always disappointed that the barrages were built creating an artificial environment that supported a few pelicans, seagulls and carp. An old fisherman described what it was like before the barrages. The water was clear and brackish and partly tidal. The fishing was great in those days,plenty of coorong mullet and mulloway. All I ever caught was carp which I sold to a local fisherman for 20 cents a kilo to be used as cray bait (southern rock lobster). I can not understand why environmental groups advocate protecting a man made stale aquatic environment. I believe a barrage could be built at Welliington to protect Adelaide’s water supply. The existing barrages should be removed and lakes Albert and Alexandrina returned to their former glory. Imagine the increased tourism from fishing alone. The brackish clear water would also be much more pleasant to swim in than the currrent putrid dirty water.

  9. debbie June 27, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    Well said Hasbeen,
    Add in a Ramsar listing and you’ve got it made I guess?
    Why spend money on improving water management and securing future growth when it is far cheaper and more popular to be a greenie?
    Never mind that it won’t do a single thing to solve the problem next time we get hit by a protracted drought.
    I have to say that the whining and whinging and the insistence on STILL trying to blame upstream irrigation looks a trifle silly at the present moment. 🙂
    It will also look just as silly when inflows get dangerously low again and neither upstream irrigators or your pool at the bottom have enough water to stay viable.
    The ACF need to catch up with everyone else and realise that their argument is losing credibility at a cracking rate of knots.
    Even trying to take the argument back to numbers of gigalitres is not showing any good understanding of the reality of our climate or our river systems.
    They need to come out here and have a good look!
    The system has come roaring back to life.
    It is actually made that way.
    It is those human assets that are in need of assistance.
    The natural environment has just proved it is perfectly capable of surviving a drought thanks!

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