Latest review should lead to more discussions about Lower Lakes management

By Rodney Woods

The review into South Australia's Lower Lakes should lead to more discussion about how the lakes are being managed, not less, according to several politicians and the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists.

State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed said after reading the CSIRO-led review, as well as a paper by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists on the same issue, she was hopeful that conversations could change when it came to keeping the lakes freshwater.

“I suppose there's no real surprises in it,” Ms Sheed said.

“We're likely to see the discussion change going forward and it will be much like ‘if the outcomes can’t be achieved, what do we need to see happen, what’s achievable and how does the socio-economic impacts get taken into account in that discussion?'.”

The paper Ms Sheed refers to highlights the need for a serious national conversation about management options for the Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth, including salinity targets.

“Keeping up current freshwater inflows and retaining the 80-year-old barrages buys time for that conversation, before the barrages come to the end of their engineered lifespan,” Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists member Jamie Pittock said.

“The CSIRO report on the Lower Lakes should be the start of the national discussion about managing the Lower Lakes, Coorong and Murray Mouth, not the end of it.

“Communities and industries throughout the Murray-Darling Basin are rightly demanding this discussion gets under way now.”

However, NSW Senator Perin Davey said discussions should wait until after the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission's report into the water market was released.

“We need to look at all of these reports, including the impending ACCC report into the water market, consolidate their findings and then have a serious discussion about what sort of a nation we want to be,” she said.

“We are a proud food and fibre producing and exporting nation and that has been made possible in part by our river infrastructure and management.

“Now is the time to draw a line in the sand and accept that we have a modern working river system that has borne industries from top to bottom and we must decide to support all of those communities.”

Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville said the report showed more work was needed on deliverability issues.

“The increasing movement of water in the basin, including to the Lower Lakes, is having environmental impacts on our rivers, posing further risks to deliverability for irrigators,” she said.

“I’ve asked the basin authority to do more work on deliverability issues across the basin.”

Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan said she was "disappointed" and called for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to disband.

“I'm disappointed with the outcome and I think most basin communities will be,” she said.

“The reality is we can't afford to let 800 Gl of water continue to evaporate from those lakes in South Australia.

“At a time when we have freshwater ecosystems through northern Victoria that are being decommissioned because we are being told the evaporation losses are too great, it doesn't make sense to have 800 Gl of water a year evaporating from those Lower Lakes in South Australia.

“We need action, we need the South Australian and federal governments to look at building Lock Zero so we can reduce those evaporative losses and I think we need to see the Murray-Darling Basin Authority split.

“This really highlights, yet again, that we have just lost confidence in the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.

“It can not be responsible for implementing the basin plan but also monitoring its compliance with that plan.”