The impression I got from the film, and then later from media reports and environmental campaigning is that the lagoon is connected to the freshwater lakes at the bottom of the Murray River, when in fact they have been separated since the 1940s by barrages – infrastructure built to keep out the Southern Ocean.
But as Susan writes in the following note, “looking at the satellite imagery of the Coorong and Lower Lakes drives home the message that the two are really part of the same ecosystem and should not have those 1940’s barrages separating them.”
There will be people disadvantaged if the barrages are now opened, in particular South Australian irrigators, and also environmental campaigners who have used images of the drying lakes to argue for more water to be taken from irrigators in New South Wales and Victoria for environmental flow.
Judging from the news stories in the Australian media you would assume that all South Australians believe that more fresh water is the only solution to the predicament the communities around the Lower Lakes find themselves in.
You would read about the local group saving turtles and marching on parliament house demanding more water, the local government stating that ‘seawater is a last resort’, the environmental groups declaring a saltwater solution an environmental disaster, even the ‘Murray Futures’ a recent government/community outreach program favouring a freshwater only solution.
The website LakesNeedWater.org was launched in January 2009 when a few of us, extremely frustrated by the lack of balanced viewpoint in the media and government, decided to pool our research and make it public so that others could learn about the crisis in the Lower Lakes. We hope that if people have enough information they will come to a similar conclusion, and then have the confidence and courage to make change possible. Our goal is to have vibrant and sustainable ecosystem in the Lower Lakes, which in our opinion means returning the Lower Lakes to an estuarine system. Producing the website content is an all volunteer effort by everyone involved in the group, some of whom have never met face to face.
So when members discover information they want to share, it gets organized onto the website. We think that our new ‘photo map’ is a useful way for people to learn about the area. Looking at the satellite imagery of the Coorong and Lower Lakes drives home the message that the two are really part of the same ecosystem and should not have those 1940’s barrages separating them. We are eagerly waiting for updated satellite imagery which will more accurately reflect the current water levels.
One member recently discovered this old 2000 report from The Murray-Darling Basin Commission. That study the ‘River Murray Barrages Environmental Flows’ report recommends treating the Coorong and the Lower Lakes as one estuary, opening the barrages to the sea, and moving the barrages back to Wellington. If the government had acted then, we would not be faced with the nightmare of remediating thousand of hectares of acid sulphate soils, and a more environmentally friendly process of mixing seawater with freshwater could have been used.
Notes and Links
The photographs were taken near Clayton South Australia from the same jetty 3 years apart – in 2006 and then in 2009. More photos are at the website.
More information on opening the barrages can be found in an article written by Jennifer Marohasy in August 2008 entitled Saving the Coorong by restoring its native state
About the film ‘Storm Boy’ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Storm_Boy_(film)