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‘River not hard to fix’

Wednesday, 20th February, 2019

By Emily McInerney

A local water action group said yesterday’s report from the Australian Academy of Science stated most of what they had been saying for close to 15 years.

The Darling River Action Group welcomed the report into the three major fish kills near Menindee in December and January.

It said the death of millions of native fish was unusual in its severity, impact on large, older Murray cod, and association with low flows.

The report said while the drought was severe, it wasn’t unprecedented. 

“More significant”, it noted, was the excessive upstream diversion of water for irrigation.

“It’s just echoing what we’ve been saying for 15 years,” DRAG president Mark Hutton said yesterday.

“The lack of small to medium flows through the Barwon-Darling River and the lack of connectivity in river pools, as well as over-extraction, has led to this,” said Mr Hutton.

“In order to fix that, small to medium flows need to be let through from the Barwon-Darling into Menindee Lakes.

“It would improve the environment, fish and wildlife as well as benefit the people on the river.”

Mr Hutton said it all came back to the NSW Water Sharing Plan which now had to be revised.

“The crux of the problem is the 2012 NSW Water Sharing Plan.

“The water sharing plan allows irrigators to take water from low flows (small and medium).

“By doing that, they can take 300 per cent of their allocation from these flows.

“They can get a three-year allowance from one flow.

“If they are allowed 100 megalitres that means 300 ML could be taken in a flow and stored for three years.

“But if that is the only flow in the system, everybody misses out.”

Mr Hutton said DRAG had a several ideas that could be taken on board to start fixing the situation.

“They get to carry over water to grow their crops, but the Darling doesn’t get any carry over.

“For the next State Government, we would like to see the buyback of Class A water licenses along the Barwon-Darling.

“We would like to see the lifting of thresholds to pump to allow small to medium flows and environmental flows through.

“There needs to be retention at a minimum of 30 per cent in all water holding storages.

“This will also act as a reserve for the environment in time of drought and it should only be used on the environment.

“We would also like to see a cut back on the 100 per cent allocation for permanent plantings.

“These are some of the things that can be done straight away.”

Mr Hutton said if Labor won the upcoming NSW election, he could foresee good dialogue between the government and the community.

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