Murray Communities shortchanged by increasing river losses

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(Link to RiceGrowers’ Association President Jeremy Morton response to the MDBA loss report)

The Losses in the River Murray System 2018–19 Report from the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) is deeply concerning with 275,000ML of extra water being required to run the Murray River when compared to similar years.

“The Ricegrowers Association of Australia (RGA) has been concerned about losses required to run the Murray River for some time and this report confirms our worst fears with a 39% increase in losses when compared to similar years.” RGA President Jeremy Morton said.

In particular, the RGA has for months been seeking the release of this report and greater transparency regarding River Operations. Increased river losses means less water available for allocation. Our growers are mainly NSW General Security water holders, and these losses directly impact upon the reliability of their water entitlements, and their ability to produce rice and run a successful irrigation business. 

The RGA believes the situation is actually worse than the report indicates because the MDBA has been operating the Murray River below critical flow levels for longer periods. A flow of 10,000ML per day or higher downstream of Yarrawonga requires water to be transferred through the Barmah-Millewa Forest which significantly increases River losses.

“The MDBA has been able operate the Murray River below the critical flow of 10,000ML/day for 78 days less this year when compared to similar years. It is alarming that we are seeing an increased loss of 39% despite a 40% reduction in the number of days over the critical flow of 10,000ML/day” Mr Morton said.

The report which was requested by Basin Governments highlights the complexity of managing the Murray River with many factors that influence its efficient operation. What is plainly obvious is that losses are increasing and that is impacting on water available for allocation and this is not acceptable.

“The RGA challenges the MDBA to provides clear and unequivocal advice to Basin Governments about the factors impacting on efficient operation of the Murray River. Whether it be the collapse of the River channel through the Barmah-Millewa Forest, the shifting demand patterns or delivery of water for the environment. This requires an honest conversation and action to address this issue as a matter of urgency. Mr Morton concluded.