A legislated cap on environmental water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin, as recommended by a bipartisan Senate committee last night, would jeopardise the health of Australia’s lifeblood river system, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

A legislated cap on environmental water buybacks in the Murray-Darling Basin, as recommended by a bipartisan Senate committee last night, would jeopardise the health of Australia’s lifeblood river system, the Australian Conservation Foundation said.

“Labor and the Coalition both say they are committed to the Basin Plan, but capping water buybacks will make that promise a lot harder to keep,” said ACF’s healthy ecosystems program manager Jonathan La Nauze.

“The only way to keep our nation’s lifeblood river system alive and flowing to the sea is to reduce the amount of water taken out for irrigation.

“The cap means 1,700 billion litres of environmental water required under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan would have to be recovered through slow and expensive industry subsidies or offset with unproven ‘environmentally equivalent’ projects.  Alarmingly, neither side of politics has the evidence to prove this can achieved.

“ACF has repeatedly asked the government to provide evidence of how, where and at what cost it will recover this much water without buybacks, but we’ve received none.

“Both sides of politics have shown they are prepared to gamble the future of our most important river system on the success of an expensive, unproven agricultural subsidy program.  In more than seven years Labor and Liberal-National governments have only managed to save 577 gigalitres through these generous subsidies.

“Meanwhile the El Niño clock keeps ticking.  If the Murray-Darling enters another drought without sufficient environmental water we are likely to see serious damage to wetlands and native wildlife that are just starting to recover from the last drought.

“This legislation introduces an unnecessary element of risk to the future management of a river system that supports life across south-eastern Australia.

“If we do not get this volume of water back in the Murray-Darling’s rivers, environmental jewels like the globally recognised Coorong will be in dire trouble.”

ACF Media Enquiries

Journalists with enquiries may contact Tom Arup on 0402 482 910 or Josh Meadows on 0439 342 992. For all other enquiries please call 1800 223 669 or email action@acf.org.au.