Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) chair Sir Angus Houston took part in a ‘listening tour’ around Sunraysia this week, talking with high profile community organisations and individual stakeholders, to hear their thoughts about the management of water in the region.
Sir Angus visited various locations in NSW and Victoria, namely the rotunda at the Psyche Pumps in Irymple on Tuesday, and Wentworth for the Murray-Darling Association conference on Wednesday, where the topics of the ‘Basin Plan’ − a four-year plan set out by the MDBA concerning water management and running the river − and climate change were discussed.
The tour comes at an important time for the MDBA and the community, as various projects recommended in the plan are underway and will need to be completed by 2024.
“In Victoria there’s a strong chance the projects in place around water in the Basin will all be delivered, they’re going well. In 2024 we’re responsible for then making an evaluation and eventually having a look at where we go from there to improve on the water management situation,” Sir Angus said.
“I want to hear as much as I can from the people who rely on water for their livelihoods and obviously there are always challenges in the water environment, so these tours are very important.
“It’s about engaging with communities, listening to what they have to say and hearing their concerns. There may not be easy solutions to some of the issues raised but if someone raises a good idea we’ll have a look at communicating with State Governments and implementing it.”
One of the main issues being discussed during the tour was climate change, which Sir Angus says has provided major challenges for water in the Basin.
“If we look at the past 20 years, we’ve had six or seven droughts in the Basin, in the 40 years before that we only had a couple, and as a result we’ve seen a marked reduction in inflows compared to what we’ve experienced historically,” he said.
“We’ve had less rain and at the same time temperatures seem to be going up which means evaporation is going to be more pronounced, so we lose some water there.
“It’s going to be a challenging environment going forward.”
Another topic which has been of significant interest to almost everyone involved in the MDBA’s listening tour is that of the Menindee Lakes, which have been filling up well.
There will therefore be water being released from NSW into Victoria, some of which the MDBA will control.
“Everybody’s delighted that the lakes are filling up, it looks likely that we’re going to get a big boost from that,” Sir Angus said.
“We’ve had a lot of questions about it and any changes we might institute. The way the water is managed by the MDBA is in accordance with requirements laid down by the Victorian, New South Wales and South Australian Governments and what is probably likely is that there will be an initial release of water to the people who need it, to get the system going, and then further releases in late spring and early summer.”