The Federal Government is being urged to heed warnings about reduced Murray-Darling Basin inflows.
“We continue calling for government action and it continues to be ignored. What is it going to take for politicians to appreciate the urgency and do something about it?” Speak Up chair Lachlan Marshall asked.
His calls follow the latest data from the CSIRO which shows there have been huge falls in inflows across the Basin in the past 20 years.
Dr Francis Chiew, a research group leader in water resources assessment and prediction at the CSIRO, said long-term rain trends suggested a significant reduction in water availability in the Murray-Darling.
And he says “it is only going to get worse”.
“We cannot continue along the current path, with reduced inflows and bleak climate change predictions for the Basin, without acknowledging the need for changes to the Basin Plan,” Mr Marshall said.
“Quite simply, in the future we cannot afford to send such massive quantities of water down the system to keep the Lower Lakes full of fresh water. We need to look at alternatives that will protect the Basin’s environment, as well as our regional communities.”
Mr Marshall said it was also important to develop government policy that protects staple food supplies for all Australians.
“We do not want to get ourselves into a position where staple foods such as dairy, rice and wheat products are not readily available in Australian supermarkets. We have already had warning signs, with shortages of domestically grown rice during the pandemic due to record low rice crops in recent years.
“Further, many dairy farmers have walked off the land because their businesses have become unviable.
“The problems around water management appear to have been put in the ‘too hard basket’ by Prime Minister Morrison and his Government. Perhaps they are trying to kick this issue down the road and leave it for a future Government to address.
“But the sooner we acknowledge the need to take action, the sooner we can work towards solutions. These solutions exist, and it is so unfortunate that our Government will not accept that some tough decisions may be required to implement them.
“We implore governments to prioritise the future of our nation, not their next election cycle,” Mr Marshall said.
Dr Chiew has said Murray-Darling communities need to think about how they manage and value water.
“The issue is not with our communities, it is with a Government that will not accept the need for change,” Mr Marshall said.