THIS morning our national newspaper, The Australian, has a very misleading story about a farmer Colin Grundy complaining that Murray river water is too salty for irrigation. 
In fact Mr Grundy does not live anywhere near the Murray river. He lives right beside the sea.
Mr Grundy lives on Mundoo Island that faces the Murray’s sea mouth that is a narrow outlet to the pounding surf of Encounter Bay and the Southern Ocean.
Reporting on water quality in the Murray River with reference to Mundoo Island is like reporting on water quality in the Parramatta River from Circular Quay in Sydney Harbour, or water quality in the Brisbane River from Fisherman’s Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River.
There is a sea dyke across the Mundoo channel to hold back the tides of the Southern Ocean but last autumn the Southern Ocean did splash over the top of it.
Upstream, in the Murray River proper, salinity levels are at historic lows. 
Later today the Murray Darling Basin Authority will release its plan for water reform – over the last couple of years we have had the draft-draft plan, the draft plan and today its time for the plan.
This new plan will recommend the buy back of a tremendous volume of water: about 25% of all the water currently used for irrigation in the Basin.
And as I’ve written many times before, the freshwater that is recovered will be sent to the Lower Lakes where there is no longer any natural environment worth saving. 
Indeed if government really cared about the Lower Lakes it would restore the Murray River’s estuary that was destroyed with the damming of the Lower Lakes through the construction of the five sea dykes that block the five channels that converge on the Murray’s sea mouth.
But according to Labor, Liberal, National and Greens senators and members of parliament, restoring the estuary would be too hard, too political, and potentially a vote loser in South Australia. 
And these people smooch with journalists at our top newspapers, who quote scientists dependent on government for funding, or farmers with a vested interested in getting ever more freshwater to the very bottom of the system. And so the false narrative about a lake that would always be fresh if it wasn’t for greedy upstream irrigators is perpetuated never mind that this freshwater lake was once the central basin of a wave-dominated barrier estuary. 
Expect lots of news stories relating to the Murray Darling over the next few days and weeks, but don’t believe much of it.
Indeed ignorance isn’t only what you don’t know. It can be what misguided journalists want you to believe, but that just isn’t correct.
References and Links
1] Undiluted Murray plan leaves states cold. Lauren Wilson and Verity Edwards, May 28, 2012. http://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/state-politics/undiluted-murray-plan-leaves-states-cold/story-e6frgczx-1226368776295
2] A Note on Murray River Salinity Levels. Sent to Water Minister, Tony Burke, August 29, 2011. http://www.mythandthemurray.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/09/A-Note-on-Murray-River-Salinity-Levels2.pdf
 Saving the Murray Darling
 Save the Murray Restore the Estuary, Address to Sydney Institute by Jennifer Marohasy, February 8, 2012
And you can find the podcast here: http://jennifermarohasy.com/publications/
 Plugging the Murray River’s Mouth: The Interrupted Evolution of a Barrier Esuary
Well said Jennifer! In the end it’s going to be about politics and not environmental management that determines the outcome of this very ill-considered plan.
By the looks of your photo of the barrage remnant Jen, this whole catastrophe is to give a bunch of shags, some nice clean fresh water to swim in, with a nice spot to perch.
Now you don’t really expect to interfere with their comfortable life style, just because a few hundred productive farmers need the water do you?
spangled drongo says
And they still don’t know what the proposed changes in ground water use will be.
Has there ever been a calculation of the what the average annual flow at the mouth would be if the river was in its original state? With all the infrastructure removed?
This is just a continuing political nightmare!
Common sense and the opportunity to enact sensible water policy left the planet the day the Water Act 2007 was voted on by both sides of govt.
The MDBA didn’t have a hope of delivering a workable plan because the legislation doesn’t allow it.
I wonder how much money has already been wasted on this impractical notion?
Good question sd. The answer is yes, but it’s not an ‘official’ bureaucratic statistically tortured answer so the MDBA have ignored it.
They have conceded however that only approx 5% of total rainfall in the MDB actually ends up as storage.
IT’S CALLED MONEY FOR JAM.
John Sayers says
Peter Andrew talks about letting the water flow across the land and it’s take time to get to the ocean.
Isn’t that what irrigation does?
John Sayers says
take it’s time …you know
Ian Thomson says
On lunchtime ABC rural radio yesterday, the only speaker who was really critical of the plan was from Griffith. Even the chairman of the Irrigators was very blase ,saying that they had , more or less, got what they wanted , which was property rights to water. I got the impression that if enough incentives were thrown around he would be all fine with it all.
Then ,( coincidentally, ) by mid afternoon, Burke was talking up on farm infrastructure. -Not for part of the water, but for MORE, above the 27,000 !
The deals are being done and unless Deb and her mates light a fire under someone we will wake up one morning to a landscape dotted with traveling irrigators and flattened box trees.
Maybe we can get a funding grant to study ways to incorporate nesting hollows for superb parrots into the sprinklers. I am reliably informed that part of the incentive is an allowance paid for each big tree needing to be cleared.
How did that petition go Jen? I am having trouble finding a link.
Trouble is Ian,
Deb and her mates are those evil irrigators who grow those evil crops like rice and cotton….and have been doing so off and on (depending on the availability of water) for 100 years in this neck of the woods…and we now produce approx twice the amount on approx half of the water…..yet we need to be urgently and radically transformed because ….?????????????……I think it’s because we were to blame for the drought somehow ????????? And therefore we’re also to blame for SA running short of unregulated inflows?????????? We don’t understand about ‘higher level principles’ which are somehow ‘higher’ than the responsible and successful production of food and fibre for both domestic and foreign markets…….
…..and we ARE expected come up with brilliant plans like creating nesting hollows inside sprinklers….and we’re expected to create water out of thin air in the middle of droughts…..because according to Burke, Knowles, Dickson et al…..we’re extraordinarily inventive and adaptive!!!!!!
But…we’re still evil environmental rapists….and we’re apparently killing the rivers.
Ian Thomson says
I just got the impression from listening yesterday, that the Council may more represent corporate ag than those ,like you, who are in it for the long haul and who actually care about Australia .
The opposition seem to just want Labour to do the nasty stuff ,because they really believe in it too.
(At a State level)
They have proved that with the National Park back pedal down here- What before the State election was to be reintroduction of limited logging has become a “trial thinning” to waste of 16 hectares.
That’s OK Ian,
I wasn’t having a shot at you. Like you, I’m just over the rhetoric that doesn’t match performance. Instead of being about good policy that would support resilience, this is all about empty rhetorical spin and politics.
You’re right, the forestry debacle is just as silly.
Wasting everyone’s time and money for no benefit. That unfortunately includes the environment.