Drought means crisis for river wildlife too

The Australian Conservation Foundation is urging the Prime Minister and Premiers not to forget the native wildlife that relies on healthy rivers when they discuss responses to the drought in the Murray-Darling Basin.

“This is a crisis situation but now is not the time for knee-jerk reactions that we will all regret in the future,” said ACF Healthy Rivers Campaigner Dr Arlene Buchan.

“To restore the Basin to health we need more than just an emergency response – we have to address the drivers of the crisis and that means properly addressing the problem of over-extraction of water and developing a long-term plan for restoration.

“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.

“Now they are literally dying for a drink.

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

Across the Basin the tiny environmental water allocations that have been made available to the environment are being cut and emergency watering plans put on hold. Irrigators have been hit hard by the drought but the environment is being hit even harder.

Recent decisions to cut off water to the environment run contrary to the National Water Initiative, signed by Federal and State Governments, which requires the states to provide environmental water allocations that are at least as secure as irrigation entitlements.