‘INDEPENDENT MP Tony Windsor has raised three interim findings from his House of Representatives Murray Darling Basin inquiry, highlighting the potentially detrimental impacts of the “Swiss cheese effect” of water buy backs on irrigation districts. Mr Windsor, as Chairman of the Regional Australia Committee, which is conducting the inquiry, has written to Water Minister Tony Burke and Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean raising the Committee’s concerns.
‘In doing so, the Committee has asked that more strategic buy back arrangements be considered as a matter of urgency.
‘As well as highlighting the “Swiss cheese effect”, the Committee has also raised unanimous concerns about the impact of the current taxation arrangements on irrigators, resulting from water reform such as grants for investments in water efficiency.
‘Concerns have also been raised about implications of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s consideration of overbank flows in their modelling of water requirements on environmental icon sites and in consultation with stakeholders, opportunities for engineering alternatives.
More here: http://theland.farmonline.com.au/news/nationalrural/agribusiness-and-general/general/windsors-mdb-concerns/2078438.aspx
And via: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?sk=group_188277774537703&id=189701537728660
val majkus says
the media release is here http://www.tonywindsor.com.au/releases/110210.pdf
I’ve e mailed Mr Windsor asking for a copy of the letter he has written to Water Minister Tony Burke and Regional Australia Minister Simon Crean and if I do get that I’ll post it here
I’d be interested to know what affected people think
I personally think that the issues raised are a bit limited – as per my comment at another post
From my reading of the Water Act it’s clear that social and economic impacts are subservient to this objective (quoting from the Act) ‘to protect, restore and provide for the ecological values and ecosystem services of the Murray Darling Basin (taking into account, in particular, the impact that the taking of water has on the watercourses, lakes, wetlands, ground water and water dependent ecosystems that are part of the Basin water resources and on associated biodiversity).
The proposals for each of the MDB regions follows the script by first assessing how much water is needed to ‘sustain the health of the Basin’s river systems, wetlands and floodplains’ before coming to the question of what it calls ‘sustainable diversion limit (SDL)’ proposals. SDL proposals represent what the Authority considers to be the long term average amount of water which can be used for consumptive purposes and that includes ’3% of the current diversion limit’ to account for the effect of climate change on surface water SDL proposals.
I’m assuming by ‘climate change’ there’s an aspect to the SDL proposals consistent with the climate change view of longer and more severe droughts and less rainfall. And if that view is wrong then I assume the SDL’s remain the same and the environment gets the difference.
How then to develop what Joyce calls ‘an equally weighted consideration of economic, social and environmental factors.’
David Boyd’s article makes a lot of sense
•we need to specify just what is meant by the statement that we need to “restore health” to the system. Are we not simply calling the natural results of the driest period in our relatively short records,”unhealthy”? Australia has always been subject to long periods of very dry conditions;
•buying back irrigation licenses/entitlements when there are no allocations will do nothing for our rivers (this really is “phantom water”) and will only constrain production when water supplies are plentiful;
•if our rivers are “over allocated”, and to claim this we need to specify under what flow conditions we make the claim, then it is the water sharing plans which should be addressed. There is no point in withdrawing licenses/entitlements which under flood conditions may well be a means of flood mitigation;
•our forefathers did a great job of dealing with our massive run-off variability by building deep dams and diversions (Snowy) in the mountainous headwaters of our major temperate Australia river system. We need to make the cake bigger, by doing more of it;
•we need to address the efficiency (read evaporation) of some of our water storages, including the Menindee Lakes. The Barrages at the mouth of the Lower Lakes should be removed and the Murray given back its estuary. The proposal to service irrigation by building a weir above the entrance to the lakes should be pursued.
•the Water Act 2007 (Commonwealth) is excessively weighted towards environmental issues with almost no reference to agriculture and socio-economic issues. It needs amendment, or at least be differently interpreted, so as to strike a proper balance.
One thing he did not mention (that I can see by another quick reading) is more dams; where these could be built – that’s a matter for engineers to determine – but at the moment there’s an awful lot of water being wasted
One other alternative is just to leave the irrigators alone to get along with the job for the moment until a determination is made as to whether ‘restoration of the health of the MDB system’ really is necessary
Isn’t it amazing that common sense starts to appear when our public servants actually think to consider the input of personally invested stakeholders and business owners?
Why didn’t the MDBA think to do that?
Why didn’t the Federal Government think to do that when they drafted that appalling Water Act?
Maybe if they thought to ask people with practical and generational knowledge of the MDB they could have saved taxpayers $millions and also halted some frightening depression and suicide statistics in the MDB!
This whole process is turning into a sham!
The problem was always the drought.
Now the problem is flooding!
It didn’t really ever have much to do with irrigation practices.
Irrigators would be in heaps of trouble if they ever wasted water like our water authorities do!
I hope the new inquiry started by Barnaby Joyce also uses productive input from the people who live and work in the MDB. That way they may get some good and workable solutions!
Forgot to add!
This news is heartening but, as Val points out, we have a very long way to go.
At least they are now starting to listen. That is a vast improvement!
Let’s hope we can build on that.
val majkus says
Debbie that’s an interesting comment above; do you intend to raise any matters with Senator Joyce; and can you get any affected people to raise any further relevant matters with either Joyce or Windsor now that we’ve seen what issues those Parliamentarians have themselves raised?
and what is Windsor talking about in his third bulleted point about the overbank flows? Does anyone know?
However in relation to Windsor’s raised issues my view is that they’re non substantive issues; David Boyd has raised the really substantive issues and no one is tackling those
Thanks for pointing out the final alternative which is to leave irrigators alone so that they can have some time to recover from the devastating effects of the recent and prolonged drought.
There are many fragile people in the MDB who need support and encouragement after weathering the drought. What they don’t need is a whole bunch of self important bureaucrats and politicians telling them that they may have to face a permanent legislated drought.
I agree that David’s points make far more sense. We seriously need to ask some basic and practical questions about our goals and our vision for the MDB. We also need to make sure that people understand that nothing much has changed as far as the actual environment is concerned. There has been very little done about storage and infrastructure and that is the main reason that we ran seriously short of water during the recent drought.
Over the bank flows?
The short answer is the the MDBP’s main goal is to “flush” water down the river systems on the back of rainfall events. Their idea is to mimic nature and flood our floodplains by forcing water “over the banks”.
This whole idea is counter-productive in our already regulayed system. it is also highly wasteful and breaks the number one rule of water management. That rule is simply: We store and conserve water in times of excess so that we can manage this precious resource in the inevitable times of shortage and drought.
What is the MDBA’s plan? We’re going to hoard water in times of shortage so that we can further flood our valleys in times of excess!
How back to front and upside down can you possibly be?
The other important point is that we don’t have enough combined storage to achieve these “over the bank flows”. Ron Pike has written extensively on this subject at this blog and also in several news publications.
This means that irrigators will have very little chance of accessing water when they actually need it.
I also think their “over the bank” scenarios will probably seriously upset State govt departments that look after roads and bridges and railways. I also think they will seriously upset private landholders who will have large areas of their properties flooded for no particular environmental gain.
Windsor’s point is that we need to actually determine which are the key environmental assets and then work out a sensible approach to watering them that will not involve a wholesale waste of water. It’s a good point and he learned it from actually listening to people who knew what they were talking about.
It is ridiculous to demand productive water from irrigators and then waste it by forcing it “over the banks” to flood productive land.
We can all do way better than that!
We can actually have it all if we approach the whole water management debate with a completely different mindset. It is not hard to preserve key environmental assets and have productive and vibrant irrigation communities. Just ask the farmers, they have in fact been doing just that for years!
val majkus says
Debbie I suspect these issues raised by Windsor in my view are cosmetic
Now where are the MDBA affected people?
AND what do they have to say?
val majkus says
and what does David Boyd have to say:
I sent the attached letter (so far unpublished) to The Australian on Saturday:-
Would someone please explain to Minister Burke and new MDBA Chairman Craig Knowles that:
1)the Murray Darling Basin was not suffering from “ill-health”, but the natural results of extreme dryness,
2)these dry symptoms have, in recent months, been dramatically cured by Mother Nature,
3)the extreme variability of our inland rivers is dealt with by issuing irrigation licenses which are subject to seasonal allocations, when water is short allocations are minimal or non-existent,
4)buying back licenses when there are no allocations is buying “phantom water”, activation of licenses , at times of plentiful water, could amount to flood mitigation,
5)if there truly is a problem of “over-allocation” when water is scarce, then it is the Water Sharing Plans that guide the allocations which should be reviewed,not the number of licenses on issue.
If this is how the MDBA affected people feel then I suggest that David Boyd be asked to write an update to that post taking into acct the cosmetic changes proposed by Windsor
It’s no use people just commenting on Jen’s blog; there needs to be some communality of affected people and they should be writing to their local reps and to Barnaby Joyce
val majkus says
I’ve put this comment on Warwick Hughes’ blog but it’s relevant here too:
the paper Dam safety effects due to human alteration of extreme
precipitation by Faisal Hossain,Indumathi Jeyachandran,and Roger Pielke Sr.
is fascinating; 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
Ian Thomson says
Very well said. One point of difference however- If we are ‘restoring’ the MDB we will leave Menindee alone and stop stopping the Greater Darling Anabranch.( I haven’t been there recently, does anyone know if it is flowing again?)
I strongly suspect that playing with evaporation in the inland will impact on pecipitation elsewhere.
Covering and lining of irrigation channels kills and disrupts wildlife as, not only do these often partially use previous natural watercourses, but also leak into prior streams ,providing water elsewhere.
Privatising Murray Irrigation brought with it a deal to replace ageing channel bridges with pipes, when these channels are full wildlife walks across the road . Don’t need to say more!
The lining of channels in Northern Vic has created death traps with slippery, polythene sides
I am told that periodic escape climbs are installed, however kangaroos have not been told and I hate to imagine a small child falling in.
You may suggest fencing – One of my sons,when 4yrs old ,refused to wait to be let out the Child Proof gate at kinder and always climbed over the Child Proof fence.
val majkus says
Hi Ian thanks for that; I am not one of the people affected by the MDBA dispute; however I have an interest in the bush as I was bought up in far south west Qld on the banks of the Paroo. I absolutely believe that no beauracrats no matter how well meaning can have any beneficial affect on a thriving and well used river system. I think good small farmers will always want to use water allocations to the best effect, they will not want to waste their allocation, they will attempt to utilise the most efficient system available. It’s good small farmers who should be encouraged to thrive. I’ve heard about the changes in the location where I grew up with now mainly absentee landlords and fences and houses and outbuildings in a state of disrepair, weeds are spreading and animal husbandry is done on an ‘as needs’ basis rather than on the basis of a live in property owner who sees at least a portion of his stock every day. Stock need handling and from what I’ve heard that’s not happening on a lot of properties now. That’s got nothing to do with irrigation but if the good small farmers move out of the MDB the system will be detrimentally affected – there might be more water but land needs carers and good small farmers are the environment’s friends. So I have every sympathy for the MDBA affected farmers. Regulating irrigation setups might win votes in the suburbs but as you point out it creates its own problems to wildlife and children.
Ian Thomson says
A month or so ago, during a sleepless night, I turned on the TV and ABC News channel was replaying? a live telecast of, (from memory) a Big Ideas program. It was filmed on a stage ,somewhere in front of a very dead looking live audience. It was before the last Federal election and about the MDBP.
Two boffins were taking part ,I reckon one was the head of the Commish and the other was a supposed expert on the Lower Lakes.
Point being ,the one I think was Head Commish, virtually claimed that he and his mates had saved the Paroo from developement.
As one who fondly remembers the ‘Don’t Pump the Paroo’ campaign BY THE LOCAL PEOPLE ,I was yelling at the TV.
If you can gain access to the program , (or Jen can,) you will find it all very edifying- and infuriating.
Ian Thomson says
Oh, and don’t get me started on absentee ownership-
Buy sheep station by river .
Activate dormant pumping license
Grow heaps of cotton and make money
Sell water licence to Federal Govt and therefore make you and them champion people
Re-invest the money in Nigeria? or Where?
Hold it. Who lost out and who paid for the paper water? Not Penny Wong, us.
val majkus says
Ian, completely agree; the Qld Premier extended the Wild Rivers Legislation to the Paroo and the Cape York Rivers shortly after the last election (without telling the voters about its intention beforehand)
the Paroo needed the Wild Rivers legislation as much as the Cape York Rivers did – that is not at all
Just ask Noel Pearson about the Cape York Rivers
and don’t get me started on what Labor will tell you before elections (election promises) compared to what it will tell you after
At least Howard went to the electorate with the GST; that doesn’t happen anymore; just looking at the current Labor Govt and the current Qld Govt – it’s what it takes before the election to get in power and they’ll tell you the bad news after
and no one can say I’m biased; I’ve been a swinging voter all my life