Thursday, 7 August 2008


Yesterday the federal water minister, Penny Wong, made an announcement. I was devastated, at first, as will many people be in South Australia. There is not enough water in the Murray River system to save the Lower Lakes. The weir will have to be built which will cut off the whole river from the lakes and the sea in order to have enough water for the people in the towns and cities, like Adelaide.

I have said many times before, as have many of the people, this is highlighted but not caused by the drought. The problems are with the overallocation of water licenses to enormous agri-businesses like Cubby Station where cotton is grown in what would otherwise be a desert, because they have been allowed to capture water from Queensland and hold it in dams equalling or exceeding the size of the whole of the Sydney harbour! Check it out on Google earth...Sydney harbour is a huge waterway. Imagine filling this with rainwater and keeping it for just one totally ridiculous venture when thousands of small irrigators all the way down the rest of the river and all the towns along the shores, have no water at all.

The loss of local food production alone is adding to the shortage of many things locally and to the increase of prices. In an era when we should be encouraging local everything possible, the opposite is happening with more food than ever coming from interstate and overseas. Just as an aside...I saw chanterelle mushrooms at the market last week with a sign proudly stating " flown in fresh from France"! At another stall I bought chanterelle mushrooms from a man who collects them himself from a local pine forest in the hills!

So either this whole lake system succumbs to the environmental collapse I wrote about a little while ago or they let the sea water back in and allow it to revert to how it was before the barrages went in about 80 years ago. Sure, this will ruin it in the short term for the local dairy farms but it is better than ruining it for 10,000 years for the whole environment. Actually, I think it could be good for tourism to have this whole are refreshed by sea water and let all the wildlife come back and use it as it was always used, as one of the prime nesting places for water birds as well as being a breeding ground for native fish etc. It was wonderful, for example, to go down to the Coorong, as we did a few years ago, and see the islands that are used as breeding grounds by thousands of pelicans, through a telescope set up in a little hut by National Parks and Wildlife. This sanctaury is currently under threat with the current situation. There is not another such breeding ground of this magnitude for thousnads of kilometres.

Moreover, the government announced that a new pipeline would be built to the dairying area to bring water from further up the river.... whether this is viable I don't know but it seems like a win:win situation to me. So, I am hopeful that this will be done and that the Lower Lakes will benefit from all this turmoil and become a wonderful wildlife refuge and scenic wonderland again and not be left to the consequences of acid sulphate.


Ian said...

Hi Kate,

I'm pleased to read that, maybe, something is being done to save the Lower Lakes.... I know what a lot they mean to you and the area. I now hope that your government will act swiftly enough to allow some sort of remedy to be in place before they collapse completely.

Anonymous said...

Hi All
I notice continually the claim by folk in the Coorong/ Goolwa/ Lake Alexandrina area that lots of water is being held back from the lower lakes by greedy upstream states and people... especially Victoria and NSW

The accusation is a false one and an unworthy one.

The irrigators, the towns and the environmental areas upstream are doing it very hard because of lack of water.

There is very little left in the system even now after good ( but average ) rains in July. The drought continues. Below are the web sites of that give live information on the major upstream dams and reservoirs on the Murray and the Menindie Lakes on the Darling.

Short of a major, major flood event upstream soon, ( within weeks ) there is no alternative for the lower lakes, but opening the barrages .

Even here at Biopark Organic Farm in the Hills the drought is still with us.. By my calculations Biopark has had just 39% of average rainfall in the 7 months of the year to the end of July. What rain falls is soaking into the ground, or going into farm dams . There is still no flow off this property down stream from the Eastern side of the Hills via Mt Barker Creek & the Bremer river to the Lakes.

And the other rivers which used to flow off these Hills into the Lakes are just as bad: The Angas & the Marne. now rarely flow into the Murray and the Lakes. Not just because of the drought. Also because of extractions by irrigators for the vineyards. Water is either held back in dams or pumped by growers from the rivers to "Turkey Nest Dams" for future use in Summer. Sometimes water is pumped out of the river down into aquifers in Winter to be later pumped up again for Summer use on vines. And these local South Australian rivers then die.

None of this is good. The over allocation of limited waters; the lessoned rains because of Climate change. We must all change to cope with it..

Stating all this is probably not welcome or politically correct. But it is what is.

Bill Hankin
Bioaprk P/L Organic Farm

Anonymous said...

Sigh...! It really seems no matter what the people think... water is still a commodity to be used and the highest bidder wins...
Pity the environment and the people don't have enough money to prevent the plundering taking place. Save the water for the people, that is what the plan is apparently. To use what we have left wisely and encourage every school and local community to grow healthy food using water wise practices should be a priority...but isn't, infact the funding for all future community water saving practices have been halted. WHY???? How can the unregulated, continual filling of pools & spas, thoughtless useage by businesses and various other excessive uses of life giving water be allowed when there is no encouragement to pass on a better future for our children? Is this a "Mothers" ravings? No... as a mother I am concerned for my child yes but the real concern is for Australian kids and the future of these affluent helpless individuals who know nothing of the skills required to feed families and communities with a little clean water some seeds and knowledge. Again.... sigh....

Kate said...

As you and I both know, Bill,the problem is with overallocation of supply so that when there is a drought, there are no reserves to draw on. Those enormous placs like Cubby Station should never have been given water licenses. And growing cotton and rice in the desert is the stupidest idea ever and should never have been given water licebses either. So, it is entirely the government who is to blame for ignoring the problems that were looming 30 years ago and the wastage by these agri-businesss eclipses the small-scale irrigators a million times over. But all these dams and so on, as you say, it is a little bit here and a little bit there and then, one day its all gone! So, in a way, all the complaints are relevant but the only way to save the lower lakes now we have come this far, is to let in the is always good to get your comments Bill.If only everyone would have a discussion, so many problems could be sorted out before they got so big. You should put on a post of your own too.

Kate said...

You always fill out the sketch Bill. I sketch, you colour in and sometimes redraw the lines and that is good...I learn from you and everyone reading this learns about all the issues.

The party was good...sorry you couldn't make it.Hope you will come to Deb's on the 24th.

Anonymous said...

sorry about your water problems - hope the veg survive

Anonymous said...

There is a very good article in todays Age newspaper on this issue.

Below is the link.