According to National Water Commission Chairman Ken Matthews:
“Ground water, in my view, is the sleeper issue in Australian water management, and indeed all over the world,” Mr Matthews said.
“Ground water is very poorly understood in Australia and overseas.
“It is being over-exploited overseas and in some areas of Australia, and we need to improve our understanding and management.”
Mr Matthews sounded the alarm during a speech to the Australian Water Summit in Sydney on Monday.
He said a lack of knowledge of water resources was hampering water planning and that the quality of Australia’s water accounting was “not good at all“.
It is actually much worst than this. Reports prepared under the National Land and Water Audit have been wrongly claiming groundwater levels are rising.
It is now six years since the Natural Heritage Trust funded National Land and Water Audit published its report Australian Dryland Salinity Assessment 2000. The 129-page glossy warned that because of rising groundwater, including in the Murray-Darling Basin, the area with a high potential to develop dryland salinity would likely increase from 6 million hectares in 2000 to 17 million hectares in 2050.
Yet data did not support the notion that we had a situation of rising groundwater in the Murray-Darling Basin. Groundwater levels in the Murray, Murrumbidgee and Coleambally irrigation areas – the regions considered most at risk in eastern Australia – have generally fallen over the past ten years. They were rising in the 1970s but falling by the late 1990s.
In 2004 the CSIRO provided me with the following reasons for the general fall in groundwater levels: improved land and water management practices; relatively dry climate over the past ten years and increased deeper groundwater pumping and higher induced leakage from shallow to deeper aquifers.
How could they be so incompetent at the National Land and Water Audit? Or where they just too focused on salinity and generating worst case scenarios?