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…