Plans to significantly re-engineer the Menindee Lakes system will destroy its ecology, Indigenous Barkindji culture and sacred sites, and hurt outback communities. These plans should be dumped immediately.
Rather than draining the Menindee Lakes and hurting nature to meet water recovery targets under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, a more holistic approach to land and water management should be taken, including First Nations as custodians. We must learn to live with nature, not concrete over it.
The fundamental cause of degradation of our river systems is the overallocation of water extraction licences, as well as floodplain harvesting. There are simply too many straws in the glass drawing too much water. This must be addressed urgently. Restoring natural rock bars and installing fish ladders can also improve the ecology of the rivers and lakes.
The most cost effective and efficient way to return water to the river systems is to buy back water extraction licences from willing sellers in the Northern Basin. This water should then be allowed to flow down our rivers and over our wetlands and into lakes, in ways that mimic natural flows as closely as is practical. Funds should be allocated to invest in regional communities and diversify their economic base to ensure sustainability and prosperity.
Reducing the amount of water extracted from our rivers and floodplains for irrigation and mining would put our rivers and the Menindee Lakes on a more sustainable footing. This is critically important as climate change is set to increase temperatures and potentially reduce rainfall in the Murray-Darling Basin. This means less runoff from the land and more evaporation, reducing the amount of water that flows into the creeks and rivers. It may also change the variability of rainfall, resulting in longer and more intense droughts and more intense flooding events.
The Lifeblood Alliance of conservation, community and Indigenous groups is calling for policies to Revive Our Rivers.
The Revive Our Rivers Plan includes:
1) Buying back more water from willing sellers in open tenders;
2) Restoring natural flows to as close as practical;
3) Investing in regional communities to diversify and strengthen their economies.