The Australia Institute has released new research showing that the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) caused ecological harm and reduced water to irrigators when it caused floods at the ‘Barmah choke’ and drained the Menindee Lakes.
“While everyone else in the Basin was dealing with drought, the MDBA created a flood and lost large volumes of water,” said Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.
“The artificial flood from August to January was not for environmental purposes, in fact it caused environmental harm. The out of season flooding eroded banks and damaged the internationally significant Barmah-Millewa forest.
“This comes on the back of the MDBA’s draining of Menindee Lakes, which contributed to the summer fish kills and to less water available for users.
“The MDBA’s management decisions have denied NSW Murray farmers, that are on zero water allocation, possibly over a million megalitres of water, or up to 61% of their licences.
“This is not the drought, or the Basin Plan, it is the MDBA and the water market creating huge changes to the River Murray System.
“New nut plantations backed by international investors are buying water away from industries, such as dairy, grain, fodder and rice.
“We are letting the market decide the future of Australian agriculture and our Basin communities. The only regulation on the market is what buyers are willing to pay and the new nut plantations have exceeded the physical capacity of the system.
“The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has prioritized new, mostly foreign owned nut plantations that won’t be fully productive for several years, over 4th and 5th generation farmers who are walking off their farms in droves.
“This would not have happened if the MDBA had managed the river in line with its official obligations, which expressly prioritise water conservation.
“Instead, MDBA has broken its own rules and NSW water holders are paying the price.”