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Senate Inquiry finds Coorong can be saved

Media Release
Rachel Siewert 10 Oct 2008

Australia's iconic Coorong wetlands and the Murray River's Lower Lakes can be saved from collapse - according to a minority Senate report released today.

Australian Greens Senators Rachel Siewert (WA) and Sarah Hanson-Young (SA) today released a minority Senate report, with Senator Nick Xenophon (SA).

The report finds that, contrary to the Federal Government's pessimistic view, a total of 60 gigalitres of fresh water by September next year is all that's required to provide enough environmental flow to stop Lakes Alexandrina and Albert from drying up and acidifying in the short term.

Senator Hanson-Young said the evidence given to the Committee showed that 60 gigalitres can be found from an estimated 1500 gigalitres of water that is available for allocation within the southern part of the Murray-Darling system.

"There is no white flag for the Coorong - all we need is just 60 gigalitres by next September to save the Coorong and lower lakes."

"It is a realistic hope. It is possible, and it can be done - provided the Commonwealth Government has the political will. The Government should establish a Taskforce immediately to make this happen."

Senator Siewert said that the ecological problems in the Murray-Darling system were the result of years of neglect, over-allocation and mismanagement and the compounding effects of climate change.

"Australia has built its fortune not only by riding on the sheep's back - but by over-using the Murray-Darling system. Unless we build a new rural economy based on sustainable use of water and protecting the environment, we will lose significant stretches of the Murray-Darling.

"We can no longer simply pray for rain - we must plan for drought."

Report findings - Emergency Action

  • The Commonwealth Government to acquire 60 gigalitres of fresh water by next spring within the southern connected system to maintain the water level of the lower lakes above the critical acidification point.
  • Setting up of a Commonwealth-funded Taskforce to oversee and co-ordinate the continuing acquisition of water and the co-ordination of environmental management for the Coorong, including devising future management options.
  • Flooding the Lower Lakes with salt water be ruled out immediately as a management option.
  • Pumping 50 gigalitres of hyper-saline water from the southern lagoon to improve environmental conditions be undertaken immediately.
  • That an adaptive management approach be undertaken to immediately monitor the water and acid levels in the lake while minimising evaporative losses.
  • That the Commonwealth investigate the conditions around the non-return of some 113 GL of environmental water loaned from the Murrumbidgee and to expedite its return.
  • That in the medium-term 350 gigalitres be found through careful management of the Murray-Darling Basin to provide for the health of the Coorong and Lower Lakes.
  • That the Commonwealth and Ministerial Council investigate the legislative and regulative impediments that might prevent significant summer rainfall in the northern basin from reaching lower parts of the Murray.

Media contacts:

Gemma Clark on 0427 604 760 for Senator Hanson-Young

Tim Norton on 0418 401 180 for Senator Siewert

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