Water crisis - govts must buy back water from irrigators

Federal and State Governments must prioritise buying water back from irrigators if they are serious about addressing the ongoing water crisis, the Australian Conservation Foundation said today.

As the Acting Prime Minister and Premiers of Victoria and South Australia today announced new contingency plans to secure urban water supplies, ACF has said that over-allocation and over-extraction of water from rivers is the driver of this current crisis.

“Drought and climate change have brought Australia’s water crisis to a head, however the fundamental problem is over-extraction of water from our rivers” said Dr Arlene Buchan, ACF Healthy Rivers Campaigner.

“If our leaders are serious about solving this water crisis, Australian Governments must purchase water from irrigators and develop a long-term plan for restoration.

“Buying water gives farmers a choice about how to deal with the drought. They can decide to sell part or all of their water and use the money to get out of debt, invest in more efficient irrigation practices, change from irrigated to dryland farming or leave the land altogether if they want.

“For years, scientists and environmentalists have been telling our Governments that over-allocation of water is a disaster waiting to happen. They have really dragged their heels contributing to the crisis we find ourselves in today.

“If we had a properly balanced system where the right amount of water went to the environment, to irrigators and to townships, when faced with crises like drought, we would have much greater flexibility to re-prioritise our water usage without causing irreversible damage.

“Our wetlands and floodplains are well adapted to drought and floods and while they can withstand drought for two or three years, many precious wetlands have been deprived of water for a decade because of poor river management.

“If we do not provide water to these stressed wetlands and floodplains they could be irreversibly damaged and could permanently lose the platypus, frogs, yabbies and other wildlife that live there.”