Plug the Pipe media release, 7th July 2008
Original media release at www.plugthepipe.com/MR070708.htm
An article by The Age's Peter Ker in last Wednesday's newspaper has provided some illuminating comments from Premier John Brumby during the lead up to the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) confrontation with the hapless Penny Wong. In that article the Premier pledges to stand up for Victorian farmers and to resist pressure from other states to lift the 4% trading cap on water within Victoria.
He is reported as saying:
"We won't be supporting any increase in that cap. The fact is, there's just no water around - whether it's water for farmers or water for cities or water for irrigators or water for the environment, we're all short of water."
I wonder if the Premier realised what he was saying here in terms of his mindless push for billions of litres of water to be extracted from the very same farmers and the Murray River catchment each year.
It is also quite clear that this statement is an acknowledgement that the Premier's "New Water", or water derived from so called Goulburn Valley irrigation "savings" cannot be achieved because there is no water to save. To be viable, the Foodbowl "savings" plan requires 900 GL of losses from the irrigation districts per anum. This year the irrigation districts lost a record low of 380 GL voiding the saving plan and with the onset of worsening conditions, it is bound to be even less this year. After construction, the North South Pipeline may be pumping dust by the time it is ready to turn on in 2010. Other Brumby built pipeline infrastructure may achieve this much earlier.
This year, if conditions do not improve, Bendigo and Ballarat will not have any water to pump through the Goldfields Superpipe as they have the same water security as irrigators. Currently irrigators have a zero allocation and hence so does Bendigo and Ballarat. The water shortage has been so severe last season that the government granted Bendigo 10 of the 30 billion litres from the Eildon Dam's Environmental Reserve. This water is normally used to protect the rivers in the Murray Darling Basin against dangerous Blue Green Algae blooms that can occur when the river system has low flows.
The Brumby Government intends to accumulate a proportion of Eildon's environmental reserve water using a process known as "carry over" because it was acknowledged in early pipeline planning stages that the irrigation "savings" would not be available in sufficient quantities until 2012. This timeline is now unlikely to be met, however this means Bendigo, Ballarat and Melbourne will be dependent on the environmental reserve water and in competition for it.
What does all this mean for the Murray River? Just another aspect of how flawed the North South Pipeline is, that's what. The environmental reserve was created in wetter times and could possibly help in the Murray Crisis this year, but no, the Brumby Government, not content with just stealing water from irrigators, has reached a new all-time low.
How can the Murray be helped? Abandon the NS pipeline, leave Eildon's environmental reserve water to the Murray Darling Basin or Bendigo and Ballarat which are in a crisis, use the little water savings from the irrigation modernisation to help farmers and increase the flows of the Murray River.
The North South Pipeline will make the Murray River drier, Melbourne's extraction of 75 billion litres from its system is equivalent to building a new dam the size of the Tullaroop Reservoir. The water savings plans will also remove futher billions of litres of water from the Basin. The government's water plans are going to make the water crisis much worse for Bendigo, Ballarat, the Murray Darling Basin and rural communities. It is time for the Brumby government to stop its spin and start to address the water crisis in a responsible manner.
Brumby ready for stoush over water by Peter Ker and Paul Austin, July 3, 2008, The AGE at http://www.theage.com.au/national/brumby-ready-for-stoush-over-water-20080702-30om.html?page=-1
Media contact: Eril Rathjen - 0488 329 266
See also: I will govern for all Victorians (caveat: but only if you are powerful and connected) of 26 Jun 08, Melbourne protests mass population growth and its profiteers of 7 Jul 08, Grave concerns: new state residential zones and loss of council planning powers in Melbourne of 7 Jul 08.
Anonymous (not verified)
Thu, 2008-07-17 19:11
Scrap the pipeline - Mr Weller MP (Rodney)
Wed, 2008-07-23 21:20
MP Sharman Stone: How can the Foodbowl Project go ahead?
Fri, 2008-08-01 18:13
Plug the pipe video here