04 May, 2010

ABC 7:30 Report

Tonight's 7:30 Report provoked the following response from me to the reporter, my friend Paul Lockyer, who has reported so well on all the water out west.

Dear Paul,
Tonight's 7:30 Report made my hair stand on end! The only more inefficient water storage than Menindee Lakes in the MD Basin is the Lower Lakes themselves. Consider this extract from my Blog:-

"The South Australian's claim that the dreadful condition of the Lower Lakes (Alexandrina and Albert) is due to extractions and lack of fresh water from upstream. No mention of the fact that under natural conditions the Lower Lakes were sometimes salty and sometimes fresh depending on fresh water flows, or lack of them, from upstream in Victoria, NSW, and Queensland. No mention of the impact of the building of "The Barrages" at the mouth of the lakes which converted the Lakes to all times fresh with the expectation that there would always be sufficient fresh water flows from upstream.

Under natural conditions with no dams in the Upper Murray catchment and no Snowy diversions, with the minimal run-off of the recent drought years, the Murray would have stopped flowing some three years ago. Salt water would have entered the Lakes and the lower reaches of the river itself as it always did under such dry conditions in the past, prior to the building of the Barrages. So it can be argued that the dire condition of the Lakes is largely a man-made problem.It is only the water stored in the Upper Murray dams, the Snowy diversions and restrictions on irrigation that have enabled the Murray to maintain any flow at all. The solution to the Lower Lakes problem lies downstream, not upstream."

Messrs. Kingsford and Young are well aware of this, but it apparently doesn't suit their agenda! There is an organisation based around Goolwa who are pushing for the opening up of the barrages and I asked their spokesperson why there was so much resistance and received this most insightful reply:-

"Good question David, not sure exactly, why the resistance to restoring the Lower Lakes to an estuarine ecosystem.

My feeling is that it is career suicide for anyone to come out with this option. And it is people with careers who are in charge of fixing this.

SA folk are going to feel as though they have lost the battle over water. When do you say, "Uncle"?

It would not go over well to be labelled the politician who gave up. I don't know of a single politician in SA who has stated they are in favour of the estuarine idea. In fact all the political parties have stated a 'freshwater only' official stance.

Given that the government has such a bias, then any scientist, civil servant or academic is treading on thin ice to say differently. Especially if they want that next contract, job or grant.

The local community advice groups consist of farmers, irrigators, and locals who either have vested interests in freshwater lakes, or don't want to change.

The water levels will most likely be lower than a full freshwater lake. When full the lakes are .7 meters above sea level. Most people have fixed jetties including the local marinas.

It is difficult and uncomfortable to be vocally in favour of the death of a freshwater ecosystem that for most people is the only ecosystem they've known in the region."

There is only a small irrigation industry which draws on the Lower Lakes. There is a sensible proposal to build a weir upstream at a place called Wellington and pipe water to the irrigators from there.

I had a fly over the Darling,  Warrego,  Paroo, the Bulloo Overflow and the Cuttaburra Basin last Sunday week. Full report on my blog-http://davidboydsblog.blogspot.com

Best wishes,
David
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