04 May, 2010

Australian Irrigation Misunderstandings

Arguably the world's leading weekly, "The Economist" recently ran an article on this subject. A well informed commentator wrote the following comment.
"There are great misunderstandings about Australia's water/irrigation situation. I contend that 90% of current water problems are the result of drought and around 10% mismanagement and over-allocation. It is disturbing to see Ken Henry so misinformed. Allocating water to the Lower Lakes (an estuarine system at the mouth of the Murray River converted in to a highly inefficient fresh water storage principally for recreation)and storing water in the shallow Menindee Lakes are issues which should be addressed.The Government buying water entitlements when there is no water, will do nothing for our rivers in drought times and only restrict production when there is plenty of water around. Remember Australia's river flows are massively variable and water is dynamic, it runs to the sea or it evaporates, it doesn't wait for you.In the present drought if it was not for the big dams in its headwaters,the Snowy River diversions and severely limited irrigation extractions, the Murray River would have stopped flowing three years ago. Australia needs more storages, but they must be efficient(deep)and highly flexible to allow medium and smaller flows to pass.They would store water by taking the top off the big events. These events are totally irregular, but surprisingly frequent-just like what has happened in the Darling catchment since Christmas.The governments purchase of the famous Toorale Station to save its water extractions, has proven a great waste of taxpayer's money. Had Toorale been operating since Christmas it would have extracted 0.4% of the flow in the Darling. $23.75m for 0.4% of the flow!!!"
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