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We need more than just extra water to save the Murray-Darling Basin

Max Finlayson and Lee Baumgartner write in The Conversation (30.6.17) about a recent report arguing that more water is needed to resurrect the health of the Murray-Darling Basin system. The authors point out, though, that simply increasing river flow alone could actually harm the Basin.

'After a long and contentious public debate, in 2012 Australia embarked on a significant and expensive water recovery program to restore the Murray-Darling Basin’s ecosystems.

'Despite general agreement that a certain amount of water should be reserved to restore the flagging river system, the argument continues as to whether this should be 2,750 or 3,200 gigalitres (GL) a year, and how these savings can be achieved.

'A recent report by the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists argues that there is no conclusive evidence, after five years, that the plan is effective. The report’s authors believe that an extra 450GL of water a year needs to be recovered to save the basin.

'There is no doubt in our minds that the Murray-Darling river system is in crisis, and the Basin Plan was vitally needed. But while we broadly agree with the Wentworth Group’s report, it’s a mistake to focus on water volume alone.

'Without giving equal attention to improving water quality and building critical ecological infrastructure, it’s possible that increasing river flows could actually harm the Basin.'

 

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