The Australian Academy of Science has found that excess diversion of water for irrigation was a root cause of this summer’s mass fish kills.
In response to the Australian Academy of Science’s review of devastating fish kills across the Darling River, the Australian Conservation Foundation’s (ACF) Campaigns Director, Dr Paul Sinclair, said:
“The Australian Academy of Science has sounded a warning that the management and implementation of water recovery across the Murray-Darling Basin is deeply flawed, finding that excess diversion of water for irrigation was a root cause of this summer’s mass fish kills.
“More than a million dead fish floating in our rivers is a clear sign something must change.
“ACF welcomes the Academy’s recommendation for urgent steps within six months to improve water quality in the Darling River and for the federal government to immediately reverse last year’s decision to cut the environmental water recovery target for the northern basin by 70 gigalitres.
“The Academy’s report comes hot on the heels of the South Australian Royal Commission, which similarly highlighted mismanagement problems, the need for the Basin Plan to take account of variations in rainfall and water availability due to climate change, and a need for more meaningful consultation with Indigenous communities along the river.
“ACF believes there is also a need for an independent national Environmental Protection Authority to oversee compliance in the Murray-Darling and ensure its wetlands, wildlife and communities don’t continue to be ripped off by some irresponsible and greedy industrial water users.
“The Productivity Commission has also called for the break-up of the regulatory functions of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority.
“In our federal budget submission ACF notes that a national EPA will require $220 million in 2019-20 to perform all its functions, including compliance, rising to a $360 million annual operating budget by 2021-22.
“We note that the Morrison Government is also expecting a separate examination of the recent fish deaths. All parties must use the delivery of that report – coupled with their responses to the findings of the Academy and South Australian Royal Commission – to implement the much stronger reforms the Murray-Darling desperately needs.”