The independent panel report on the Lower Lakes may have settled their recent past as a largely freshwater ecosystem but it leaves many unanswered questions about their future.
The Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia president, Rob Massina, said the report reinforced that climate change, with reduced river flows and rising sea levels, will challenge efforts to keep the Lakes fresh going forward.
“The report suggests that more water will be required to keep the Lower Lakes fresh, when the science clearly shows this will be a losing battle.
“These facts alone casts significant doubt over whether the lakes can continue to be managed as they currently are, in a time warp.”
In particular the report highlights that more than 20% of irrigators’ water has been recovered for the environment under the Basin Plan, the volume available to manage the Lower Lakes will decline by a similar volume under medium climate change projections.
"If the government insists on maintaining the Lakes as a freshwater ecosystem, then where the hell are governments going to source enough water from?"
While findings indicate that removing the barrages would have significant ecological and socio-economic impacts, the RGA believes the CSIRO missed a very important opportunity to explore the option of automating the barrages, to ensure water efficiency and improved management.
As NSW Water Minister, Melinda Pavey, said: “We need these management plans for the Lower Lakes to reflect the reality of the world we live in, and that means plans that include trigger points to open and close the barrages to save fresh water and ensure acidification does not destroy the Lower Lakes.”
RGA argues that the report should have looked to other opportunities for maintaining ecosystem health at the Lower Lakes, especially options that do not depend on water flows.
“These complementary measures, which are a glaring omission from both the Basin Plan and this report, include infrastructure solutions to manage the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth, and programs to manage aquatic weeds and pests, nutrient runoff and erosion.”
“If the MDBA won’t do its job, then we urge the Basin Ministerial Council to show leadership in facing these challenges head-on.”
“The notion of accepting another report conforming to the status quo is not acceptable. Now is the time for our Ministers to draw a line the sand and advocate for change to ensure that our precious water resources are managed sustainably for all water users.”
Key findings include:
The Lower Lakes were largely fresh prior to European settlement.
Removing the barrages would have significant ecological and socioeconomic impacts on the Lakes’ freshwater values.
Removing the barrages would not result in any water savings if targets informed by science and modelling and envisaged under the Basin Plan are to be met.
Click here to read full report by CSIRO
Media Contacts: Belinda Lambert, RGA Communications Manager - 0488 071 165
Robert Massina, RGA President – 0448 999 288