Current river flows are providing the ideal opportunity to collate data on their environmental effectiveness.
The community-based Speak Up Campaign says this especially applies to flows from the Murray River into the Coorong, which was a key component of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
An objective of the plan is to supply Lake Albert and the Coorong with fresh water, however there have long been doubts around whether sending water from Hume and Dartmouth Dams to parts of the Coorong is even possible, let alone effective.
Speak Up Chair Shelley Scoullar says current floodwaters making their way along the river in South Australia provides the perfect opportunity to collect data and monitor flows.
“Reports from the Coorong tell us that high river flows mostly stop at the Northern Lagoon and don’t flow into the Southern Lagoon. Traditionally flows in the Southern Lagoon have come from the south-east region of South Australia, but these flows have almost ceased, causing damage to this part of the Coorong.
“It therefore makes sense to investigate and rectify this issue. It would be wasteful to send vast quantities of water all the way down the system, which results in huge transmission losses and unnecessary riverbank damage, because this was seen as an easier political solution.
“Instead, we should monitor what floodwaters, if any, are making their way to the Southern Coorong. If we need a flood of the current magnitude to get upstream water to this part of the Coorong, obviously other long-term solutions are required,” Mrs Scoullar said.
She explained that under the Basin Plan it was proposed to send 80,000 megalitres a day over the border into South Australia, but “what’s the point if it cannot achieve a key objective in the Southern Coorong? It seems a better approach would be increasing the flow contribution to the Southern Coorong from the south-east.”
Mrs Scoullar said this could also have significant benefit to Australia’s food production, and as a consequence help reduce cost of living pressures.
“If we research and implement sensible solutions instead of the ‘just add water from the Murray’ approach that has been adopted, there would be no need to recover the additional 450 gigalitres of ‘upwater’. This, in turn, helps our farmers grow more food and fibre for domestic and international markets, and rural communities are protected. Everyone wins.”
There would also be additional benefits, because the undisclosed funding to recover the 450GL could be better spent on complementary measures such as revegetation and fencing of river banks, re-snagging and fish breeding and upgrading waste water systems to improve water quality.
“To this point, the promised flexibility in the Basin Plan has been virtually non-existent, to the detriment of the environment and our communities. We currently have an ideal opportunity to monitor effectiveness of flows and investigate the best way forward, but it will need an adaptive approach. Hopefully, we don’t look back in the future on yet another lost opportunity,” Mrs Scoullar said.