Water fund untapped
Thursday, 10th June, 2010
The South Australian politicians who toured the Menindee Lakes this week said they were unaware of some of the intricacies of the system.
But the group's leader, Deputy Opposition Leader Mitch Williams, said their message was still the same: evaporation had to be addressed.
"We do have a better understanding," Mr Williams said.
"I guess one of the things we weren't as aware of before we got there was how the system is managed to stop flooding and water losses.
"The river will overflow out onto the flood plains, into billabongs etc., and (is managed) by putting water into the lakes.
"My biggest concern remains the large sum of money (given for water savings measures) ... and no money has been expended."
The visit was a fact-finding mission for the South Australians who were angry about the handling of the recent floodwaters from Queensland.
It included the Shadow Environment Minister Michelle Lensink, Shadow Agricultural Minister Adrian Pederick, Member for Chaffey Tim Whetstone and Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for the Murray-Darling Basin Simon Birmingham.
State Water hosted the visitors and gave them an overview of the lakes and a tour of the main weir, Lake Pamamaroo and various regulators.
Before the visit, Mr Williams said that $400 million pledged for water savings measures on the lakes had not been spent.
The recent floods saw water flow into the all the lakes, including Lake Menindee, while lakes downstream remained dry.
But he said while it was easy for those in SA to point the finger upstream, he believed that Broken Hill and SA's needs were the same.
"The main message from South Australia's point of view is that our best interests are served by getting the same outcomes as Broken Hill needs," Mr Williams said.
"I'm quite angry that (the money hasn't been spent) because water is evaporating.
"There was $25 million on consultants but we still have no answer.
"We would certainly like the money to be spent so that all of the lakes can be emptied.
"A lot of that water can never be reclaimed; that is dead storage in Lake Menindee."
Mr Williams said the lakes being 80 per cent full was no excuse to not start work and that work could still be done managing water efficiency.
"Planning work could be started. Regulator work ... between Lake Menindee and Lake Cawndilla, some of this work can be started," he said.
"The outlet for Lake Cawndilla could be done and constructed and regulator work can be done next time the lakes are emptied out."
Mr Williams said he did speak to some locals, who were sceptical of their intentions.
But he said South Australia wanted the same thing the locals did; for work to be done on the lakes to minimise water losses.
"Some of the people were a little almost aggro and thought that we held the attitude that all the water should've gone to South Australia," Mr Williams said.
"But the people we've been talking to about what we're calling for are of the same opinion - get that money spent and increase the inefficiency of the system.
"It would provide a win-win for all the stakeholders in the Menindee Lakes, Broken Hill, irrigators."