“State governments destroying plan to save Australia’s most important rivers”

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A $13 billion plan to rescue Australia’s most important rivers is being “actively destroyed” by the NSW and Victorian governments, which refuse to ensure water flows high enough to keep floodplains and forests alive, leading scientists say.

The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists said the failures of the two upstream governments, as well as recalcitrant landholders and a price-gouging private company, threatened to render the Murray-Darling Basin plan “useless”, compromising a river system on which millions of Australians depend.

The plan stipulates the amount of water that can be drawn from the Murray-Darling system, aiming to take at least 2750 gigalitres a year from irrigated agriculture and return it to rivers, wetlands and flood plains.

The group of scientists, led by Associate Professor Jamie Pittock, is conducting the first independent review of the plan, due for completion this year.

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 Darren Perry at Psyche Bend Lagoon, near Mildura. In background is algae forming as a result of high water temperatures and low oxygen. Photo: Louise Donges

Their research has already revealed physical and other barriers that threaten “the survival of floodplain forests and the future of the entire Murray-Darling river system”, Dr Pittock said.

“The Victorian and NSW governments are actively destroying the basin plan,” he said.

“There’s no point having a large volume of water for the environment if the state governments will not let it out of the river channels and onto the floodplains … to keep forests and wetlands alive.”

 Original article posted on The Sydney Morning Herald, October 21, 2017 (link)