A Real Opportunity for the Australian Greens to Be the Farmers’ Friend

In the lead up to the NSW State Election some Australian Green’s candidates have been claiming they are the farmer’s friend (Wolves’ ain’t so bad, Jeremy Bradley, February 10, The Land, pg. 26).   Certainly there is no reason for continued conflict between conservationists and farmers in a land so vast and resource rich as Australia. 

However, I have noticed that the Australian Greens have a tendency to demonise farmers – particularly irrigators and particularly over the Murray River.

Most dramatic stories have these three important characters and the Australian Greens tend to tell the story thus: the river is portrayed as the victim of over-extraction by the villain, the greedy farmer.   Meanwhile, the Australian Greens paint themselves into the story as the rescuers.

Australian Greens’ Leader, Bob Brown, used to present as the knight in shining armour when it came to the river – repeatedly demanding water be taken from irrigators and returned to the river.  More recently, Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young, has taken over the role as rescuer and has been calling for the Federal Government to commit to a level of water return that will secure the health of the Murray River. 

In fact, during the recent drought, the river was mostly brimming with water for most of its length carrying waters from the Hume and Dartmouth dams to Lakes Albert and Alexandrina at the bottom of the system.  

But of course there was not enough water for the lower lakes, despite huge volumes being sent down. 

And the barrages that block the natural ebb and flow between the lower lakes and the Southern Ocean were slammed shut during the drought preventing the lakes from flooding with salt water – something that would have occurred naturally before the construction of these enormous steel and concrete barriers.

If the lakes had been filled with water from the Southern Ocean, pressure would have been taken off the rest of the system, making more water available for red gum forests and other key upstream environments – and also more water for farmers.

If the Australian Greens supported a campaign to have the barrages removed, or at least more adaptively managed, then they could truly claim to be the friend of farmers in the Murray Darling Basin as well as the environment.

Filled with seawater, and with regular tidal flushing, the lower lakes would possess a different, but not necessarily less natural, or less healthy assemblage of plants, animals, birds, fish and micro-organisms. 

The lakes were formed about 6,000 years ago when seawater broke through a land barrier flooding the region.

Ms Hanson-Young has claimed a bare minimum of 4,000,000 megalitres needs to be returned to the river system to give it any chance of survival – but this is plainly wrong.

In fact, in order to guarantee that Lake Albert never dries up again, and that farming can co-exist with healthy wetlands throughout the system, the Australian Greens need to rethink their approach in particular to the lower lakes and consider the salt water solution.  

Lend your support to the saltwater fix by liking http://www.facebook.com/pages/Friends-of-Lake-Alexandrina/143626762363849

This is an edited version of ‘Green knights miss saltwater fix’ first published in the The Land on February 17, 2011, pg 35

50 Responses to A Real Opportunity for the Australian Greens to Be the Farmers’ Friend

  1. Andrew Bartlett February 23, 2011 at 5:32 pm #

    Speaking of farmers and environmentalists, do you have a view on the coal seam gas issue?

    That seems to be one where there is a genuine alliance happening in opposition to mining interests (which appear to be being strongly backed by government).

  2. Debbie February 23, 2011 at 5:50 pm #

    Thanks for this timely post Jen.
    It is interesting that the debate is being framed around the “villians” (the irrigation farmers) and the “rescuers” (environmentalists and greens).
    It is interesting because neither of these groups have any control over water allocations and they never did.
    Maybe we should all ask: WHO DOES?
    This whole process is clearly a political battle over the control of water and we already have way too many casualties.
    The environment is a casualty in many ways but in particular the degradation that has occured because of those barrages.
    The irrigated agricultural industry has barely struggled through a crippling drought and now they’re being faced with a permanent legislated drought. They’re definitely a casualty.
    Australian taxpayers are a casulaty because so much money has already been spent to “save” a system from the wrong “villian”. The villian was not irrigated agriculture, it was most definitely the drought and accompanying inflexible government water policy.
    Even more interesting is that the whole MDB has replenished itself with no help from anyone other than our totally unpredictable climate.
    It certainly wasn’t replenished by the “rescuers”.
    As you point out the river was definitely kept running through the worst of the drought by the system that is used by the “villians”!
    The major casualty however is common sense! Where on earth did that go?
    Why haven’t we learnt the obvious lessons that our environment has just taught us?

    Lesson one: We do not have enough back up storage in our systems to adequately survive a prolonged drought and we need to examine ways to increase storage and conservation techniques and infrastructure. That way we can all be better prepared for the next inevitable dry cycle that occurs.

    Lesson two: Water management and water policy has become inflexible and therefore unable to quickly adjust when our climate, our weather patterns and our rivers do a complete “about face”. Most importantly, our environment has always been prone to changing from one extreme to the other and we need to examine the best ways to deal with both extremes and manage our resources accordingly.

    There are submissions going on line at this link, with many more to come.


    They highlight the two sides of the debate in some ways but most of them point out that politics, water policy and our highly variable climate are our major problems.
    If we want to save our rivers then maybe we should redefine who the “villians” are and also examine who needs to be the “rescuers”.
    They may actually be the same people!

  3. cohenite February 23, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    The Murray Darling water issue and the Brisbane floods demonstrate the fundamental idiocy and misanthropy of the greens; in the MDB water is not stored because “natural” flow must be maintained while in Wivenhoe too much water was stored because drought had been predicted by the likes of flannery.

    You can’t make sense of this and you can’t reason with mad dogs.

  4. el gordo February 23, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    The coal seam gas issue is the only thing farmers and graziers have in common with the Greens, but apart from that I’m convinced they are a dangerous bunch of zealots.

  5. val majkus February 23, 2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Debbie thanks for your comment;
    I’ve sent an e mail to Tony Windsor and received this reply today:

    Thank you for your e-mail message to Tony Windsor, MP, Independent Federal Member for New England.

    Would you please accept our apologies for the delay in responding to you – the matters you have rasied are being examined and Mr Windsor will be in touch with you as soon as possible.

    In the meantime, should you have any further queries, please contact Mr Windsor’s office on (02) 6761 3080.

    From: Val Majkus [mailto:v_majkus@bigpond.com]
    Sent: Friday, 18 February 2011 1:25 PM
    To: Windsor, Tony (MP)

    I’ve read with interest that you as Chairman of the Regional Australia Committee, which is conducting the MDBA inquiry, have written to Water Minister Tony Burke and Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean raising the MDBA Committee’s concerns over the issues reported in this article http://theland.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/windsors-mdb-concerns/2078438.aspx

    I and friends of mine have an interest in the MDBA inquiry and I would be grateful if you could email me a copy of the letter you have sent to Mr Burke and Mr Crean.

    Thanking you in anticipation

    Val Majkus

    Now in response to your comment, can you link the proof transcript of the Griffith hearings of the Committee to this post? I’m sure others would like to see the various oral submissions and others might have some relevant comments

    My comment is that what’s missing from the various submissions is an ending statement that the submitter asks that something be done
    from what I’ve read in the transcript which you e mailed me each submitter had good oral submissions but the Inquiry has missed the point; the stuff in Windsor’s media release is cosmetic

    If you could round up the various submitters in your region to post each of their ending statements (what each requires the committee to do rather than just thank them for listening) and if a number of posts could be added to this post that would elucidate what the irrigators require from the Committee

    I know country people are courteous but you guys are the experts and you haven’t given the committee instructions (I noticed the analogy of bottles of water; well just pretend the committee is an apprentice fencer for example; well any manager would end up with short points about what he or she expects and I’m just suggesting that be done now)

  6. MVFFA February 23, 2011 at 11:11 pm #

    Val and Jen,
    Here is the link to all of the hearings as well as submissions to the house of reps inquiry.
    They are public property because they were public hearings.
    As you will see from the calendar there are still a few to go.
    Some extremely high quality submissions from some very passionate and committed people and organisations.
    The Windsor committee have been given some fairly explicit instructions by a large number of people and organisations.
    The politics is the problem.
    That would also explain the reticence from Windsor, Bourke, Crean and others.
    They left these areas in very little doubt about what was expected of them.
    Whether they have the intestinal fortitude to actually do something about it remains to be seen.
    At least Barnaby Joyce has shown some sort of leadership with this issue.
    You will also notice that submissions are not just from farmers. We know we are all in this together.
    In purpose built irrigation communities, everything relies on reasonable access to irrigation water. Even the environment relies on it.

  7. MVFFA February 23, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    Forgot to paste the link for submissions.


  8. Schiller Thurkettle February 23, 2011 at 11:19 pm #

    Historically, and across numerous cultures, the farmer is the lowest on the social hierarchy. The only people lower are the slaves.

    Nobody should be surprised about farmers getting dumped on.

  9. Debbie February 24, 2011 at 7:41 am #

    Sad but true in a lot of cultures. Unfortunately it is true in Australia.
    There are others like the French, the Americans and other European cultures where this is not the case.
    Maybe Australian farmers should think about looking at the way they conduct business with policy makers?
    It is crazy that we allow ourselves to be dumped on.

  10. Schiller Thurkettle February 24, 2011 at 9:24 am #


    Actually, it *is* the same in the US. I live in the Midwest in the heart of farm country. We’re always getting slammed with arbitrary and capricious regulations that appeal to the preconceptions of the urbanites: farmers are chemical-loving land-rapers and animal abusers who destroy rivers and streams, etc. and so forth.

    Having traveled extensively in Europe, I have the impression that farmers are held in somewhat higher esteem in Germany. I attribute that to the notion of ownership of land and the fact that most of the population lives in rental units. Ownership of land is culturally associated with nobility and the feudal system, which Germans tend to admire. They could associate farming with peonage instead, but they don’t. Probably because peons don’t own, they rent.

  11. Susan February 24, 2011 at 10:29 am #

    There is no better time than now given the amounts of freshwater in the system to begin a restoration of an estuarine system in Lake Alexandrina. It is the best way to guarantee a viable environment during times of drought for the region.

    I think the unspoken ‘elephant in the room’ is all about water levels for SA townships along Lake Alexandrina. Goolwa, Hindmarsh Island, Milang, Meningie, and Wellington depend on full pool levels of +.70 AHD metres ABOVE sealevel to maintain their lifestyle properties and the tourism industry. Without the barrages elevating the water level, this stable depth of water is not possible. All the marinas have fixed jetties. All the canal styled properties depend on this elevated fixed level of water.

    There needs to be an open discussion about ‘why not’ open the barrages. Why can’t there be channels engineered to create better connection with the sea and tidal flow? Why can’t Hindmarsh Island and Goolwa learn to deal with tidal waters for their tourism activities? Why not, especially now that we’ve got full fresh water river flows.

  12. val majkus February 24, 2011 at 10:55 am #

    One thing that confuses me when looking at the guide to the Basin Plan is how much water is going to be wasted by keeping the barrages closed at the Murray River mouth; the MDBG http://download.mdba.gov.au/Guide_to_the_Basin_Plan_Volume_1_web.pdf mentions the Lower Lakes and the Murray Mouth a number of times
    I can’t find any specific G/L attribute to the Murray Mouth but page 57 sets out key environmental determinative points and this figure is replicated in the regional guides

    Detailed analysis showed that the range of surface water required
    to meet the environmental objects of the Water Act is between
    22,100 gigalitres per year (GL/y) and 26,700 GL/y (long-term
    average), which is between 67% and 81% of the total available
    surface water under the historical climate scenario.
    To meet this range would require an additional volume of between
    3,000 GL/y and 7,600 GL/y (long-term average) from the current
    diversion limit

    Ian Mott has compiled an extremely interesting submission http://www.mdba.gov.au/files/submissions/Ian%20Mott_Landholders%20Institute.pdf
    in which he says (at page 4)
    However, the term, “Basin water resources” includes fresh water sourced from outside the Basin catchment that has been, or could be, introduced to the Basin by human intervention (e.g., by pipeline from the Snowy River catchment). And it must also include sea water that has been, or could be, introduced to the Basin by human intervention.
    The provision for adequate introduction of sea water into the Coorong and other parts inside the Murray mouth is clearly a core ecological value and ecosystem service in its own right. It clearly falls within the meaning of the first Mandatory Decision required by the Water Act, which is to;
    – Determine the amount of water needed for the environment, known as the environmental water requirement, to protect, restore and provide for the ecological values and ecosystem services of the Basin.
    This obligation clearly includes determining the amount of sea water needed to provide for the estuarine ecological values and ecosystem services. But the MDBA only includes it as an outcome, not as a tool for achieving outcomes.

    Ian is not proposing that the Barrages be kept permanently open in his submission BUT he raises the important point that the Plan must also include sea water that has been, or could be, introduced to the Basin by human intervention AND as he says at p 26 ‘With adequate sea water systems in place there is no longer any justification, either logical or ecological, for a single drop of fresh water to go over the Barrages. All of existing fresh water outflows (up to 5 million ML) could be used for delivery of up-stream ecological services at zero cost to the economic, social and ecological values of the Basin’

  13. val majkus February 24, 2011 at 12:26 pm #

    Susan I missed your interesting comment probably because I was composing my own
    I’ve had a quick look at your impressive website
    Did you make a submission to the authority and if so could you please provide a link

    another thing the Guide lacks probably because of its environmental priority reasoning is an ascertainment of how much water could be saved for dry years by dam building
    Now I know this is not popular with Greens but dams in addition to providing storage make environmental and socio economic sense as well

    I think there should be an overlook at the basin by suitably experienced engineers to recommend where dams could be placed and their impacts on the river system

  14. Susan February 24, 2011 at 5:28 pm #

    Thanks Val. The website lakesneedwater.org is a group effort by locals around the Lower Lakes. You’ll notice multiple authors. We encouraged people to write their own personal submissions to the MDBA and we hope that our website made their efforts easier. My short submission is here: http://www.mdba.gov.au/files/submissions/S%20Myers.pdf .

  15. val majkus February 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm #

    Susan thanks for that and I congratulate you on your website and on your submission and I congratulate Debbie on her submission; I have not read all the submissions but I read the submissions concerning the Murrimbidgee and when I thought about it this morning I looked for submissions concerning the Murray mouth and the Coorong Lakes
    All excellent submissions and you can see after all that energy all the Committee has come up with is Tony Windsor’s media release referred to in an earlier post

    what the Committee is looking for is all cosmetic and does not in my view take into account the major concerns of the affected basin dwellers
    It’s no use sitting back and waiting for a satisfactory outcome and relying on satisfactory outcome from good submissions; the Greens are not going to help – 40% of Tasmanians are living on some sort of welfare and if that’s the way of the Greens I don’t want it and I’m sure that productive basin dwellers don’t want it
    Just doing a submission is not the end of community input; in my view Barnaby Joyce is doing what’s necessary and whichever party you vote for usually then maybe you should consider supporting Joyce now AND getting all affected persons to do the same
    Windsor and his committee in my view considering his iterim media release are looking for cosmetic changes only

  16. val majkus February 24, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    here’s the link to the 40% of Tassies living on some sort of welfare

    ‘Meanwhile the number of Tasmanians receiving some form of welfare remains stubbornly high at close to 40 per cent, a figure that has changed little even in the recent economic boom times.’

    As I say above if that’s the way of the Greens I don’t want it and I’m sure that productive basin dwellers don’t want it

  17. Schiller Thurkettle February 25, 2011 at 6:18 am #


    There is a quite simple answer to your questions. The world is running low on fresh water supplies. Therefore we need to restrict access to fresh water. To ‘preserve’ it, you know. The world is running out of oil — therefore we must restrict drilling for it. And so forth.

    In short, those who predict Malthusian catastrophes are perfectly content to bring them about through regulation.

  18. Debbie February 25, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    Well said Schiller!
    Of course it has everything to do with the mindset.
    If we think small, think shortage and think cut back then that is exactly what we’ll get!
    How excellent would it be if we were able to change that mindset to one of prosperity and abundance and legislate wisely, with that in mind.
    Thanks for you comments about USA. In Australia we are of the belief that your agricultural lobby groups wield way more power than ours.Is that is more localised than we understand and also has the environment movement has made massive inroads into your power bases as well?
    I checked your submission and your website Susan.
    Excellent work.
    You are so right about that White Elephant! When combined with Schiller’s point, the current behaviour in water policy starts to make some ugly, convoluted sense!

  19. val majkus February 25, 2011 at 12:47 pm #

    I left this comment on Warwick Hughes blog some time ago and it’s relevant here as well
    the paper Dam safety effects due to human alteration of extreme
    precipitation by Faisal Hossain,Indumathi Jeyachandran,and Roger Pielke Sr.
    is fascinating also; what layman would have thought that large dams effect increased precipitation; I’ve been advocating for more dams in the MDB system and this may be one reason to seriously consider that as opposed to water buy backs

  20. val majkus February 25, 2011 at 5:45 pm #

    when I was a kid a little railway siding on the Charleville/Quilpie line was demolished in a dust storm

    the local council decided it was not to be rebuilt; a number of the local land owners complained each to the other but my father wrote to the local shire and the siding was rebuilt because he took the trouble to put the complaints into a letter to the relevant authority

    now I know a number of MDBA affected landowners have made submissions to the MDBC and I accept that took a lot of work

    BUT what are each of those submitters doing now

    Just doing a submission is not enough in my view but Debbie and Susan are the only voices on this blog

    I hope the others are not sitting back thinking the fight’s over

    BUT I’m not an affected landholder and maybe that’s the correct view; don’t know; but ….

  21. Debbie February 25, 2011 at 10:45 pm #

    It’s OK Val,
    There’s plenty happening.
    I don’t think many farmers regularly blog.
    I’m only new to it.
    I think a lot of farmers visit this blog but most of them do not comment.

    There are a few encouraging signs on the political horizon but we have a very long way to go.
    We are in the fight of our life and we know it!

  22. el gordo February 26, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    I agree with Debbie that a lot of farmers and graziers may visit here, but don’t say a word. If you are not in the habit of communicating in the written language, the confidence is not there to start now.

    So in this ‘fight of our life’ we are here to reassure the men and women on the land, make them aware they are not alone and forgotten.

    Victory will be ours!

  23. val majkus February 26, 2011 at 8:11 am #

    well said el gordo;
    however from what I’ve read of the MDBC submissions all of the writers communicated well in the written language and their confidence showed in their ability to do so

    political fights these days depend upon written communication

    however I accept what Debbbie says that there’s plenty happening

    I like to hear a bit more on what the affected people think are the major items wrong with the Guide

    Myself I have some doubts which I’ve expressed above but the other thing I haven’t yet mentioned is its ‘climate change’ adjustment

    I’ll have more to say on that later today but no more time at the moment

  24. Debbie February 26, 2011 at 11:38 am #

    Thanks el gordo,
    You comment means a great deal.
    Market research indicates that a huge part of the voting electorate (mostly urban) has little understanding of these issues and don’t really care.
    That research is rather disheartening so it is wonderful to see comments like yours.
    Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

  25. el gordo February 26, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    That’s alright, we are in this game to win.

    Looking at the traffic figures coming on this blog (which Jen put up the other day) it’s a lot more than our regular dozen. Within this I see Jennifer as the editor of an online country newspaper, flexible yet tough when necessary.

    We also have international reach, but the regional flavor will remain our greatest asset.

  26. val majkus February 26, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    I mentioned above a link to a paper Dam safety effects due to human alteration of extreme
    precipitation by Faisal Hossain,Indumathi Jeyachandran,and Roger Pielke Sr.
    which I said is fascinating also; what layman would have thought that large dams effect increased precipitation;

    That’s an American study but I’d be interested in hearing from any basin dwellers who live in the vicinity of big dams as to whether that’s their experience

  27. Peter R. Smith OAM February 28, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Dear Jennifer,
    How much longer are going to continue with your diatribe about a SEA WATER solution to the Lower River Murray and Lakes Alexandrina and Lake Albert. If you really want the truth visit our area and we will be happy to explain the dinamaics of Lock 1 to the Great Southern Ocean! The Lakes were never eusterine but TIDAL and if SEA WATER were allowed to in vade the Lakes all of the water from the Barrages to Lock 1 would become contaminated. This would ensure that the water sourced for Adelaide and moch of the population of SA would become undrinkable. This may come as a shock to you Jennifer but the pump outs are at Mannum, Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend not at Morgan as you have previously stated! If you wish the River Murray to be a natural River well pull out all the retrictions to flow ie, all the Locks and the barrages and let it run free but remember in times of drought as we have just experienced it would have been as it was in the 1910’s nearly totally dry! All we hear from so much of the population above Lock 1 and especially in the Eastern States is romove the Barrages – Un-Educated Crap – so please visit us and we will be happy to explain the situation to you so as you can inform with truth not crap.

  28. Peter R. Smith OAM February 28, 2011 at 1:57 pm #

    It is about time all Australians, especially those in the Murray Darling Basin, those who source water from within the MD Basin and those interested in the Basin’s and this country’s food producing future read of the history of the Lakes Alexander and Albert and the Coorong (a RAMSAR Site) which were NEVER ESTUARINE but TIDAL. Oh, before you make comment find out the difference!

  29. Susan February 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm #

    Peter would you support the weir that was proposed at Pomanda Point aka Wellington? Something that Jennifer has mentioned before in her blog in sync with barrage removals and or modifications. After all it is over 240km between Blanchetown where Lock One is located and Wellington, the point where the river dumps into Lake Alexandrina. That’s the biggest stretch of river that’s not got a lock on it. With a weir at Pomanda Point, the salinity flowing upstream could be managed so that farms below Lock one in SA could use the fresh river water. Not to mention providing a stable river level for the new marina housing estate being developed near Mannum.

    I’ve read that between Lock One and Wellington, it takes 50GL to keep the river ‘full’, while Alexandrina holds about 2000GL and evaporates 900GL per year of fresh water.

    Part of managing the river should include the fact that ‘Lake Alexandrina’ is really ‘Estuary Alexandrina’, and should be managed as part of the Coorong. And the Ramsar people are not worried as to whether the ‘wetlands’ are fresh, estuarine or marine, just wet.

  30. Peter R. Smith OAM February 28, 2011 at 6:25 pm #

    Dear Susan,
    The short answer is no but a group on whoes behalf I have made a number of submissions to various enquiries is we believe there should be an Environmental Impact Statement undertaken into the constructing of a Torrumbarry style Lock near Wellington, if you look at my website http://www.psmithersmyriver.com and follow the links to Lock Zero you will see what we are looking foe. Many academics support the call for an EIS, what we are seeking are the right terms of reference and an umpires decision, which all must abide by.
    If there were a Lock near Wellington Blanchetown to Wellington could be managed far more successfully and the pool level could be lowered when water was short. As for any talk of estuary aboluteky NO but the Lakes Alexandrina and Albert could be managed successfully without the invasion of sea water I would be happy if you contacted me so as I could provide you with any information you seek.
    With regard the Coorong there is much I could explain!

  31. Debbie February 28, 2011 at 6:41 pm #

    Thankyou for your comments.
    I do have an important question.
    Do you support the Water Act 2007 and the resultant MDBP?

    I believe there are problems in SA and that they need to be seriously addressed.
    I take your point about only removing one regulatory stucture. That’s a fair comment.
    However, I don’t believe the current MDBP will help SA much at all and in the process it will cause much unnecessary damage.
    Have you seen this?

    Tidal or estaurine, the lower lakes have been adjusted just as the rest of the system has.
    Some common sense about the whole problem from top to bottom would be absolutely fantastic! We’ve got the whole system regulated anyway.
    Jennifer has also pointed out that there is some pretty stupid stuff going on at the top of the system too (Eucumbene and SHL)
    I would be much happier if we all recognised that fact and came up with some good solutions that would make our already regulated system even better!

  32. Peter R. Smith OAM February 28, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

    Dear Susan,
    I have read the 2007 Water Act and I can not support it as it is nearly impossible to, as Rob Freeman said something like it is not possible to come up with a MDBP within its guidelines. With the MDB Plan I believe firstly ANY independence the Authority had is now gone and I am sure any plan will be weighted towards to power ful lobby from the Eastern States. The much unnecessary damage part is probaly sadly correct. As my Lock Zero submission points out the minimum flow required into SA to ensure a HEALTHY River, healthy not just for SA but the entire Basin is 4,800-Gigalitres a year and I personnally believe we should be aiming for far more than 6000-Gigalitres to be returned. There is much happening within the Basin and North of the Basin that could be righted, as for stupid stuff, I don,t really know but commonsense should prevail and we must all be Australian’s standing together for the Basin the Un-Australian attitude is killing the Basin! Adjustments with good out comes are possible.

  33. Debbie February 28, 2011 at 10:14 pm #

    I totally agree that adjustments with good outcomes are possible but I am diasappointed that you seem to think that means returning water.
    When a statement like “6000GL to be returned” is made, it immediately assumes that somebody stole it from somewhere in the first place.
    Considering we’re in a totally regulated system and none of us would have any bloody water at all if it wasn’t for the regulatory systems (including the SA Barrages) no one has stolen anything!
    We created extra storage and we regulated the rivers so that we could survive our totally unreliable climate!
    If you’re from SA and you know how the rivers used to work, you would also know that SA and the Murray would not have survived the last drought. It was the regulatory systems that kept the Murray flowing.
    What we need to realise is that far greater demands have been made on the system by all of us, including SA, and none of our State governments have done anything much to upgrade the system since the 1960s.
    It is ridiculous to blame one state over another. They’re all guilty! All of them!
    I truly believe we could have it all if we stopped letting ourselves be divided and conquered.
    The environment has always been a stakeholder in the system and we’ve always been aware that we need to look after it. For people to say otherwise means they do not understand how our environment operates or they’re just straight out lying!
    We can’t forget that Australia is a land of “drought and flooding rains” and that we need to work out the best ways to protect ourselves from both of these extremes.
    The mindset that someone stole water and it needs to be returned is really not the right way to fix the problem.
    We don’t have enough storages in the whole system to supply an extra 6000GL when nature decides not to supply us. Supplying an extra 6000GL to the bottom of the system will not help it or anyone else in the middle of a drought either.
    Some rational thinking and some good old common sense from our governments (State and Federal) would be bloody marvellous!
    We also need to really consider what our goals are and what our vision is for the future of our communities all along the MDB.
    We won’t be able to do that either if we continue to let ourselves be traded off against each other.
    We do not have a water shortage problem, what we have is a very serious water management problem!

  34. Susan March 1, 2011 at 2:15 pm #

    Peter, I enjoyed reading about your Lock 0 proposal last year and seeing it in the media. However, I don’t see a huge difference between the EIS for the Pomanda Weir (which was already in place) and the ‘Lock 0’ EIS proposal. The finer details on type of construction, including a lock, fish ladders are all details. I would trust that properly qualified engineers would be capable of designing and locating an appropriate structure, and that all of this would have been able to be sorted during the EIS for Pomanda.

    And I do not understand the aversion to seawater, never have. It is an entirely futile exercise to try and keep an ocean, gulf or sea contained. As a good natured dare, show me one instance of a tidal barrage system anywhere else in the world that has a healthy ecosystem. Just one. Why should Australia think they alone in world can build concrete barriers across an estuary and believe ‘she’ll be right’?

    Now, think about what is going to happen the next time we have an extended drought and we have used all of our water storages, and we just do not have 4000 GL in the system. This is what we’ve just been through. At one point in 2009 there was only 2500 GL left in the entire MDB. You can demand water all you want, but the water isn’t going to be there unless it rains.

    Even with a Lock 0, even if there was zero farming in the MDB, even if all the legislation of Water Acts etc are re-written, the region of the Lower Lakes is not ‘drought proof’ unless we find a way to harness the sea and let the sea have it’s rightful place in the eco-system.

    I just don’t understand how anyone can look at a satellite map of the region and be able to justify the existence of the barrages.

  35. Dead Donkey March 1, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    “But of course there was not enough water for the lower lakes, despite huge volumes being sent down”.

    But there was enough water? What are you on about? If you are hinting that Lake Albert should have freshened with the amount of water flowing down…then check some historical salinity records from the EPA website!

    “Filled with seawater, and with regular tidal flushing, the lower lakes would possess a different, but not necessarily less natural, or less healthy assemblage of plants, animals, birds, fish and micro-organisms”.

    Would you be happy to pull the trigger and wipe out thousands freshwater reliant vegetation communities, fish, crustaceans and macro-invertebrates?

    Also have you ever heard of Palaeolimnology? Or Palaeoecology? I suggest you might want to read some papers in this field…published from lower lakes sites. I would be happy to send them to you!!!!!!!!!

  36. Peter R. Smith OAM March 1, 2011 at 3:58 pm #

    Dear Debbie,
    I take your point about returning gigalitres to the MDB whatever way you wish it referred to the environment needs an extra 6000-Gigalitres to actually flow through the Basin from the far North and East to the mouth.
    Of course it is about over allocation and not to make to much of a point about it our allocation has not increased since the agreement was signed I believe that was in 1996.
    The entire MDB needs upgrading to ensure total effeciency to stop waste but we must adress over allocation. We have been divided on purpose we must stand untited to ensure the Basin is under one independent control and not political parties. An organisation similar to the Reserve Bank is required.
    Your last line is spot on!

  37. Peter R. Smith OAM March 1, 2011 at 4:19 pm #

    Daer Susan,
    There has never been an EIS into the ‘Temporay Pomanda Weir’ a proposed solid construction made up of some 75,000-tonnes of rocks just pushed/dropped onto the bottom of the River with massive steel sheets to stop all flow, what a disaster, an environmental nightmare, well at least it did not happen!
    You are correct about qualified engineers and their ability but a proper EIS will look at the Lock Zero proposal and its effect on the total management of the Basin.
    If Lock Zero had been in place during the worst of the drought years we could have lowered the weier pools behind all of the Locks in SA, lowered the pool level between Blanchetown and Wellington so as the swamps, floodplains and backwaters were empty ie, all water in the best storage place the River and fed water into Lake Alexander and Albert when necessary. We have no intention to cut of our Lakes, this would be part of the management study as part of the EIS.
    You are right our Lakes are not drought proof as neither are Menindee Lakes and many other sites throughout the Eastern States but they need to be managed.
    As previously stated our Lakes were TIDAL and there are still properties in that area that for primary production rely on potable water and therare water course running into the Lakes that we by blocking them off would kill those water courses as we all know River die from the mouth.

  38. Susan March 1, 2011 at 5:14 pm #

    There was such a determined outcry from a group of well-meaning local protestors that no doubt words like ‘temporary weir’ became part of the proposed weir design as a way to make the project more politically acceptable. Armchair weir experts crawled out of the woodwork critisizing the design. Here is one link that mentions the EIS process:


  39. Peter R. Smith OAM March 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    Dear Susan,
    That EIS was as are most things regarding the River Murray by this SA Government a bloody farce. It is not about them but us but they can’t understand we need a complete EIS including how the management of a TORUMBARRY Style Lock will be a valuable tool with which to ensure a good National management of the BASIN.
    I have read the article from the Standard as it is my local paper and they have printed an article about Lock Zero.
    If this Governemnt were serious about the River Murray and the MDB they would open their eyes and ears and listen to not just what people want but what people need.

  40. Debbie March 1, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    Where do you expect the extra 6000GL to come from?
    You say the Northern and Eastern states but during the drought, they did not have an extra 6000GL. Even if they did, if they’d tried to send 6000GL to SA it wouldn’t have made it there because everything was in drought and everything was dry. The dry creeks and dry banks would have simply sucked it up.

    I suspect you may not understand the difference between allocation and water entitlement?
    There has been no over allocation because no water was allocated other than water for the environment, towns and cities and High Security water for permanent plantings and stock. The hierarchy is actually in that order.
    Things got so bad that the Water Sharing Plan got suspended in NSW so the towns and cities, including SA towns and cities, could survive ahead of the environment. The only water available during the worst of the drought was critical supplies for towns and cities (including SA).
    Food and Fibre producers barely got a drop unless they had permanent plantings that entitled them to high security water.
    We all suffered badly during the drought, we certainly didn’t get any extra water that should have gone south!
    If the water isn’t there, the Murray mouth can’t have it either!
    Maybe we do need to examine its tidal or estaurine options and pipe the potable water to the people who need it when water gets tight? That actually sounds sensible to me.
    There’s plenty of water now, but broad acre irrigation still didn’t get a full allocation until late December, after 1 minor flood and 2 major floods.
    The Murray Mouth by that point was receiving tens of thousands of GL every single day!
    We can’t give the rivers an extra 6000GL if nature has not been providing us!
    Allocations have no bearing on this simple, undeniable fact.
    Our problem was not over allocation, it was a crippling and prolonged drought.
    Our problem now is the lack of common sense in our water bureaucracies.
    On that we definitely agree.

  41. Peter R. Smith OAM March 2, 2011 at 7:22 am #

    Dear Debbie,
    The 6,000-Gigs I refer to is for the MDB as environmental water to be properly managed and distributed throughout the MDB we in SA certainly would not ask that water be delivered to SA. I am saying that 4,800-Gigs when available is what is needed to keep the River alive in SA. One thing as referred to is that the pool level should be lowered in times of need/drought so water is not spread into floodplains and backwaters especially below Lock 1.
    The over allocation has been occuring over many years we have, not in SA, been allocating more than the Basin can deliver even at its best. The Basin is 250% overallocated. I certainly know the difference between allocation and entitlement but of course neither can be supplied if it is not available and yes when the Basin is in trouble of course critical human needs is the first to be delivered.
    The SA irrigators are still restricted to 67%. In SA, and so should be the rest of the Basin, be ecstatic that the River below Lock 1 is running a bumper and we are able to allow the flushing required to ensure the River is regaining health.
    I agree the drought was strangling this country and we must ensure management of the Basin and other legislation is put in place as a safety catch when the droughts come again! Yes, the lack of common sense is amazing but until we pull together as one country and as Australians I am afraid we are doomed.
    In the 1910’s this Basin ran dry and we must with PROPER MANAGEMENT for the Basin/Australia pull together we can only win the battle with common sense.

  42. Debbie March 2, 2011 at 8:29 am #

    Thanks for that Peter,
    I have heard so many stupid explanations for that 67% that I have become totally confused!
    I believe that is an example of the total lack of common sense that is operating in our water bureaucracies.
    It has eventuated because of some convoluted formulas that include carry-over rules. Those formulas were put together in the drought years and our water authorities have become so inflexible and so concerned about their own backsides that they are incapable of adjusting to the radically different conditions we are faced with now.
    It is absolutely infuriating!
    All of us suffered badly through the drought and we had to accept that our type of enterprises had to be suspended. It was very difficult but we understood that it needed to be done because of the critical shortages.
    The infuriating part is that now it has become possible for us to be given a much needed break, our water bureaucracies have made it very clear they are not prepared to do so.
    I often wonder why we are not learning the obvious lessons that our climate, our rivers and our environment has been trying to teach us over the last decade?
    I posted it before, but I think these are the lessons:

    Lesson one: We no longer have enough back up storage in our systems to adequately survive a prolonged drought and we need to examine ways to increase storage and conservation techniques and infrastructure. That way we can all be better prepared for the next inevitable dry cycle that occurs.

    Lesson two: Water management and water policy has become inflexible and therefore unable to quickly adjust when our climate, our weather patterns and our rivers do a complete “about face”. Most importantly, our environment has always been prone to changing from one extreme to the other and we need to examine the best ways to deal with both extremes and manage our resources accordingly.

    What do you think?

  43. Susan March 2, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    I hear this over and over again, especially from the freshwater only crowd, ‘the system needs a good flushing out’.

    Wouldn’t it ‘flush’ a whole lot more efficiently if there were not concrete barrages in the way? Wouldn’t the water quality of Lake Alexandrina, Lake Albert, the Coorong, the Goolwa Channel (did I miss any?) be less of a cesspool if it had daily tidal flushing from the sea?

    Or maybe these barrages act like some kind of alien filter that is specific to Australian barrages? Maybe that will appear in the next ‘best science’ report…

  44. Debbie March 2, 2011 at 8:59 am #

    As a point of clarification.
    If you mean that State Governments have issued more water entitlements than our storages can supply, then I agree with your point.
    It was never farmers who “over allocated”, that is one of the most infuriating perceptions that are circulating.
    Farmers and regional communities were actually encouraged to expand and develop by State Governments. Farmers and their communities invested heavily in expansion and development in good faith.
    We need our water authorities to do some serious back-up work to make sure they can supply what they have encouraged. If they can’t, then they should compensate people for their lack of vision and foresight.
    It is extremely annoying that farmers are now seen as the villians in the water debate.
    That is unfair and untrue.
    We need to ask who the real villians are.

  45. Susan March 2, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Just came across this article today in Crikey

    This is the where the ‘they stole our water’ crowd in SA are coming from. Floodplain water that should be going into the river where it can be measured is not always making it there because of these levees. Makes you wonder how many times this is happening?

    Wouldn’t it be nice if we had a way to measure water via satellites and mapping?

  46. el gordo March 2, 2011 at 12:51 pm #

    There has been little said in the MSM about the $25 million ‘Sea to Hume Dam’ project. We may have something else in common with the Greens, besides coal seam gas, our native fish.


  47. Peter R. Smith OAM March 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Dear Debbie,
    I do not blame the irrigators for the over allocation once again bloody Government greed!
    I agree why only 67% I know the rules but fairs fair and some irrigators need to wet up the soil. As for your Lesson one: Better management yes but also ensuring Dartmouth and Hume are release with more thonght!
    Lesson two: Better education re climate changes taking into account that information!
    I have attended two seminars facilitated by the Australian Conservation Foundation and Al Gore and we must listen to what the planet is telling us!

  48. Peter R. Smith OAM March 2, 2011 at 1:37 pm #

    Dear Susan,
    Saying, it would be easier flush the heavy metals, nutrients, salt etc out if there were no Barrages sounds right to those not understanding the ecology. The Coorong, Lakes Alex and Albert as previously stated were only ever TIDAL and many below Lock 1 and below Wellington rely on access to potable water.
    OK if a Torrumbarry style Lock were to be constructed that would solve the problem for people, irrigation and industry drawing water from the River Murray between Wellington and Blanchetown but where does that leave people around Lakes Alexandrina and Albert and along the Finnis River and Currency Creek who draw water for human use, irrigation, industry etc.
    Another problem no one seems to worry about is the massive build up of contamination behind all of the Locks in the Basin since they were commissioned and the fact it will continue to build up, it is not flushed as our Locks open from the top when they should be able to be opened from the bottom!

  49. Peter R. Smith OAM March 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm #

    Hi Susan & Debbie & anyone else who has enjoyed our exchange,

    If anyone would like to correspond with me or receive some water information I put together daily about drought/water/etc please visit http://www.psmithersmyriver.com to source my contacts.

  50. Carroll B. Merriman June 8, 2011 at 4:46 am #

    Generally I do not post on blogs, but I would like to say that this post really forced me to do so! really nice post.

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