Water Symposium reason for hope


A key point made by Randall Cox from the Queensland Water Commission is that the buybacks in the MDB (and all their attendant social and political problems) are the result of overallocation and we should do every thing within our power to avoid a repeat of those problems in other areas. His work is to protect the Great Artesian Basin from a similar fate.

Dramatic tension

Other contrasting pairings that had emerged during the day included the energy companies and Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative (CSG), SA Water and State Water NSW (Downstream flows), Melbourne Water Corporation and everybody else in the Murray Darling (75Glpa of Murray Darling water for Melbourne).

The strongest differences expressed at the symposium were between some of the irrigation authorities and the Murray Darling Basin Authority. The good news is the goodwill being expressed to find a way through those differences and get a single plan up and running. A striking example of that flexibility to find compromises that result in win-win situations is the Barren Box Wetland. Google that and grin.

There is a strong sentiment that environmental groups are not sitting at the same table as the rest of these groups in trying to establish a working rivers program.

The themes of the day were many and varied but it emerged quite clearly that the National Water for our Future program is bringing together a lot of work by various authorities over the last century and there is a strong hope from all parties that it will hold together and create a powerful plan for the future.

Groundwater in the mix

One of the most heartening differences between this forum and similar groups as recently as two years ago is that while there are a lot of gaps in our understanding of the connections between groundwater, surface water and wetlands, everyone acknowledges the connected nature of the system and the need to manage each component as part of a linked whole.

A similar conclusion was reached when considering the economic imperatives of food production, energy production and carbon management. In this case the sheer complexity of each individual area requires that they be dealt with as linked components rather than a single system.

Takehome messages

We all need to understand the relevant long term plans for water management in the areas where we are working. These include the Wild Rivers legislation, the Murray Darling Basin Plan, the Great Artesian Basin Sustainability Initiative.

We all need to understand the role of the Catchment Management Authorities in our communities and their interface with the relevant water authorities in the area.

We also need to be aware of the politics between state and federal water commissions and between the state and regional authorities. There are wildly different objectives in many cases and as scientific and engineering consultants we will often find ourselves walking a political tightrope, or answering questions designed to help the questioner score a political point.

The better informed we are about the political landscape the better we can use our science to help our clients make good, clean water and deliver sustainable water solutions.

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