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Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Only 280GL left for basin plan buy-backs

There could be 280GL left to be purchased for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, but it is not guaranteed.

November 14, 2012 4:40am

There could only be another 280 gigalitres (GL) of water left to be bought back under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Almost 1600GL has already been recovered, mostly through buy-backs.

However, Murray Group of Concerned Communities (MGCC) chairman Bruce Simpson says every gigalitre purchased will have an impact.

Federal Water Minister Tony Burke recently released statistics about the water recovery progress, in a document about his suggested changes to the basin plan.

Under the proposed plan, the government intends to recover 2750GL of productive water for the environment by 2019.

Another 450GL may be recovered later, through infrastructure efficiency works.

According to Mr Burke’s calculations, the government already has almost 1600GL of the 2750GL.

A portion of that water came from infrastructure investment, according to MGCC member Perin Davey, but the majority came from buy-backs.

If the government receives the expected 650GL from environmental works and measures, and the remainder of the 600GL from infrastructure investment, only another 280GL will need to be bought back.

However, Ms Davey said ‘‘no one knows’’ if the government will receive the expected volumes from environmental works and infrastructure investment.

‘‘That is an extreme worry,’’ she said.

‘‘Those figures have come from the states. So we are unaware, we haven’t seen them, we don’t know how robust the modelling is [but] we have faith in the states.’’

Ms Davey said the outcome can also be affected by Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) modelling.

Mr Simpson said even if only 280GL remains to be purchased, it is still significant.

‘‘Every gigalitre is a lot of water and has an impact on our communities,’’ he said.

The MGCC has long campaigned against buy-backs, saying they destroy the social and economic fabric of communities.

Mr Simpson also has concerns about the 650GL of water from environmental measures.

He said the water will be sourced through changes to management of environmental water, through infrastructure or rule changes.

‘‘Rule changes could have a negative impact on our irrigators and irrigated communities,’’ he said.

Mr Simpson said the work won’t be over once the basin plan is passed through Parliament.

He believes irrigation organisations need to ensure there is a high level of accountability in terms of how environmental water is managed.

‘‘This will go on forever, in terms of making sure that communities and irrigation regions get their fair and equitable share of whatever water is in the system,’’ he said.

Mr Burke’s suggestions to the MDBA also said that climate change must be considered in future reviews of the basin plan.

Mr Simpson said there should be a triple bottom line consideration - including social, economic and environmental impacts - in future reviews of the basin plan.

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