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Uni welcomes Murray-Darling plan latest

The latest changes to the Murray-Darling Basin plan have been welcomed by Melbourne University scientists, but they warn it is just the start of needed change.

November 6, 2012 4:03am

University of Melbourne environmental scientists have welcomed the Federal Government’s new plan for the Murray-Darling Basin, but warned the devil would be in the detail.

The university’s School of Land and Environment hailed the Prime Minister’s announcement as a fair compromise of environmental and population needs.

But Agriculture and Food Systems Professor Snow Barlow warned it was just the beginning of the process.

‘‘All eyes will be on how this plan is implemented ahead of 2019, when all states become bound by it,’’ he said.

School dean Professor Rick Roush said there were two important components which must be part of the implementation plan, in addition to on-farm infrastructure and environmental works.

‘‘The communities which will sell irrigation water to the Commonwealth for this extra environmental water must be assisted to rapidly adjust to these changed circumstances,’’ he said.

‘‘We need research, extension and training programs to teach people how to use both irrigation water and environmental flows more efficiently,’’

Agriculture and Food Systems head Professor Frank Dunshea said Melbourne researchers recently developed management technologies and techniques to improve the productivity of irrigated dairy farms.

‘‘Together with the Murray Dairy farmers group, the university has a proposal before government for further funding to implement this research on the dairy farms across northern Victoria,’’ he said.

Prof Barlow said the proposed new water allocations opened the way for much more sophisticated management of water within the basin for triple-bottom-line outcomes.

‘‘However, considerably more research is required to develop the understanding, real-time information systems, water trading and management systems needed to ensure that the available water is put to the best possible effect,’’ he said.

‘‘The recent MDBA modelling that has led the realisation that a few big floods have much more biological impacts than a lot of small ones has just barely scratched the surface of the possibilities for water managers and farmers to work together in the basin.’’

Prof Roush said there was no time to waste.

‘‘It is imperative that this work is done, management systems are put in place and the farming communities and environmental managers are prepared for these changes before they are fully implemented in 2019.’’

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