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Nation unprepared if drought continues

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 10 Oct 2007

"If the current drought continues we will be caught unprepared," said Senator Rachel Siewert in Adelaide today.

"Our current water management strategy in the Murray Darling Basin has been to run down all the storages in the belief that a break in the drought is imminent."

"However, even without taking into account climate change, if this drought is like other historical droughts (eg 1938 to 1946) dry conditions could continue on until 2014."

"Factoring in climate change makes this scenario potentially even bleaker. We cannot take these kinds of risks with our water security," she said.

"The Murray Darling system is running on empty. We have run down all the storages and are cutting off wetlands and draining lakes. Irrigation allocations are at an all time low, and many more permanent plantings will be sacrificed this summer."

"We have been borrowing from the future," said Senator Siewert. "Our failure to deal with over-allocation and manage the system based on the historic drought record mean that we have sacrificed the environment and agriculture… and still face an uncertain future."

"New plantings are still going into the ground at the same time that we are continuing to lose permanent plantings – this situation is simply ludicrous. We need to halt any further plantings (Managed Investment Scheme plantings in particular) until the basin plan is finalised," said Senator Siewert.

With current state-level plans locked-in, the basin management plan and cap on water extractions won't kick in until 2014 (possibly even 2017 in Victoria).

As Mike Young told a packed audience at Adelaide University last night – "We face a frightening future … unless we change."

"There is no simple answer to this problem but we need a Government committed to taking action," said Senator Siewert.

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