Feedback to Murray Darling Basin Plan

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Feedback to Murray Darling Basin Plan

Post by mondo45 » Thu Nov 11, 2010 4:45 am

There is currently an opportunity to provide feedback to the Murray Darling Basin Authority about their Plan to be implemented in 2011.

The MDBA say:

"Basin Plan: Having Your Say. Feedback on the Guide to the proposed Basin Plan.

The MDBA welcomes your feedback on the Guide to the proposed Basin Plan. The Guide is the first part of a three-stage process in developing the Basin Plan. It will be followed by the proposed Basin Plan and 16 weeks of consultation, and the final Basin Plan in 2011.

The Guide provides an overview of the proposed Basin Plan and an additional opportunity for feedback before the formal submission process on the proposed Basin Plan.

While feedback will be accepted at anytime, feedback received by the end of November 2010 will be considered by the MDBA as input to drafting of the proposed Basin Plan. Feedback received after the end of November will need to be considered alongside formal submissions in the preparation of the proposed Basin Plan.

An easy way for you to provide feedback is using our online feedback form. You can enter free text and/or attach documents, and save and revisit your feedback before submitting it.

Feedback may be published by the MDBA. However, if you do not wish your feedback to be published you can indicate this on your feedback form.
If you prefer to provide feedback on the Guide in another format, you can use the following lodgement details:

Phone: 1800 230 067
Fax: 02 6230 7579
Post: GPO Box 3001, CANBERRA ACT 2601

Lodge your feedback online here.

The proposed Basin Plan and start of submission period.

The release of the proposed Basin Plan will initiate the start of a formal consultation period of at least 16 weeks, as required by the Water Act 2007. During this time, you are invited to lodge a formal submission. We will provide more details about how to lodge your formal submission closer to the time of the proposed plan’s release."

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Re: Feedback to Murray Darling Basin Plan

Post by duane » Thu Nov 11, 2010 8:33 am

The Murray-Darling:Still A Simple Problem, Really By Lea Barrett*

Peter Andrews writes in his book, Beyond the brink, first published in October 2008,that just as he was preparing to
write the chapter on The Murray-Darling, A Simple Problem, Really, he heard of “yet another government plan
to rescue the Murray-Darling from total collapse”. ¹
Here we are 2 years down the track in October 2010 andnothing much seems to havechanged. The media is once
again full of news on how the government is going to fix theMurray-Darling.
On October 8, the Murray Darling Basin Authority released The Guide to the Draft Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The draft proposes cuts to water use by between 27% and37%. The cuts are as high as 45% in some regions. The
draft also proposes cuts to the use of ground water of up to 40%.
Also recommended is the expansion of water trading and the elimination of the restrictions of trade.
Communities dependant on irrigation have responded angrilyto the draft plan. In Griffith,
about 5000 people turned out to protest, fearing a threat totheir community’s livelihood.Griffith lies within the Murrumbidgee irrigation district, which stands to lose up to 43% of their water.
Farmers have also criticized the plan citing the draft plan fails to accurately assess the impact to
loss of jobs and the devaluation of their property prices due toproposed water cuts.
What remains clear in this debate is that the governmentis still not addressing the fundamental
issues—namely that the way Australia manages the landscape needs to change.
As Peter wrote 2 years ago, there is a simple line of inquiry to follow to understand the why
the Murray-Darling is in such a mess. Peter recommends“comparing the present river system with the one that existed
when the system was healthy and self-sustaining”¹ about 200 years ago—and he maintains that the difference is the absence
of wetlands. The old river was once a PONDED system caused by the blockage IN the of MAJOR wetlands every 100 kilometres or so, with each of the wetlands a processing area, that separated one section or step in the river from another step below.
Everything moving down the river (including sediment, plant and animal debris) would enter these wetlands, be processed (by plants and microorganisms) and converted into nutrirnts and mulch ready to be spread out over the floodplain in the next wet cycle. Today these in river wetlands are no longer.

What happened to these wetlands????

94% of them ARE gone!!! The remaining 6% left total 30,000 THUS meaning we have removed a staggering 470,000 functioning wetlands from the whole system !!! How can the living 'organism' that is the MD River survive with 94% of it's functioning 'liver and kidneys' removed ???

Dialysis perhaps????

But the 6% wetlands that are left, are OUTSIDE of the main stream of the river and today they only fill in major flood events. They once were filled more regulary by minor flooding because they had high water tables.

Farmers also long ago got rid of many of wetlands through European farming practices of draining boggy areas and what we have today is all one system running from the tropical north all the way to the Coorong. Not the stepped, diffused natural system of braod acre hydroponics as it once was.

Peter writes that the Murray-Darling is “practically a monoculture from the top of the river to the bottom”. ² He also tells us that a river system cannot remain healthy without periodic gaps to break up the hydrology. So no matter how much money the Australian government throws at the Murray trying to rehabilitate it—without gaps to break up the hydrology the Murray is sure to die.
Peter’s recommendation in Beyond the brink was to reconstitute wetlands along the Murray-Darling by dividing the flow of the river into narrow channels (through a complex of dairies) as well as reinstating vegetation along the Murray. In 2007, Peter actually suggested to the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change, that if the department commissioned him, he would set up a complex of dairies at a preferred location along the Murray River to produce a wetland system there, fully productive. The complex would duplicate all the natural processes that occurred in the wetlands with 10 dairies every 100 km or so and the benefit would be that whatever irrigation took place would be happening within a floodplain. The whole system would be based on the fact that there would be a water table in the floodplain and the ground would be full of water. The reinstating of vegetation along the Murray would have the effect of cooling the land on either side which would increase rainfall along the entire length of the river.On properties that he’s redeveloped, Peter has proven that by replicating the natural movement of water in the landscape and supporting a high water table on the creek and river flats, one can create highly productive farms without the need for irrigation.
Needles to say and unfortunately for the Murray-Darling, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change didn’t take Peter up on his offer.
One problem is that our water management officials still view our creek and river systems as a drainage system rather than the natural dispersal systems needed to rehydrate the landscape.

Another problem, as Michael Jeffery and Julian Cribb co-wrote in their article “Water is the Key to Sustainability” is that few Australians are aware of the fate of water when it hits our landscape. They advise that 50% of our national water budget is lost through evaporation and propose how much more water-rich Australia would be if we harvested and re-used even a tiny part of this lost water. Michael and Julian caution that as the climate gets hotter, drier and less predictable and more and more of our continent dries out, we will have less vegetation to help hydrate the landscape as well as increased evaporative losses and suggest that knowing this, we are in the privileged position of being able to do something about it, as thousands of farmers already are: rehydrating the landscape through careful management of soils, water and vegetation. At individual farm level many farmers are showing that it is possible to increase soil moisture retention, soil fertility (carbon) and vegetative cover, either crops, pastures or native species.³
So it’s clear that whilst some farmers (about 5000 out of 140,000) are making a difference , there still needs to be a fundamental change in the way we manage the landscape.
Some suggest that the alternative is publicly funding a radical transformation of Australian agriculture with the government scrapping its plans to buy water entitlements and use the allocation system to guarantee the necessary water for environmental flows. Its suggested by the Green Left that the billions the government would spend on buying water entitlements could be spent on supporting farmers and their communities as they adjust to the lower water availability and become ecologically sustainable.
Another solution is to find ways to save water and build soil carbon by recharging our wetlands, repairing our riparian zones, restoring forests and shelterwoods, using no-till sowing, using new organic fertilisers and practising cell grazing. ³ These are all methods which have the potential to increase the water stored in our dry landscapes as well as locking up millions of tonnes of carbon to offset Australia's greenhouse emissions.
The blockages to change are clear: farmer conservatism, regulatory complexity, and inconsistent national and state policy. 4
Until Australia comes to the full realization that each and every one of us are the managers of our eco system and that the management of our landscape is not necessarily rocket science, but basic common sense, we may continue to see the government release yet another untenable plan to save the Murray-Darling.
Through the debate around The Guide to the Draft Murray Darling Basin Plan., Australia has a genuine opportunity to restore
our precious rivers and wetlands. The knowledge and the solution exists. What’s required is a willingness to listen on
behalf of the federal and state government departments responsible for implementing the solution.

*Reprinted here by kind permission of Lea Barrett from Issue#3 USNSA Inc Newsletter.

¹Peter Andrews, Beyond the brink: Peter Andrews’ radical vision for a sustainable Australian landscape, 2008, p.101
²Peter Andrews, Beyond the brink: Peter Andrews’ radical vision for a sustainable Australian landscape, 2008, p.103
³Michael Jeffery and Julian Cribb, “Water is the Key to Sustainability”, The Australian, October 15, 2010
4, Chairman’s Update June 2010, p. 1

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