‘Fiendishly complex' water issues discussed at Cotton Collective

An informative forum on water issues has been held at the 2019 Australian Cotton Collective.

Key water stakeholders presented Cotton Collective delegates with the latest factual information on water issues.

More than 200 delegates attended the session at the event in Griffith, which featured Steve Whan, CEO of the National Irrigators’ Council, Phillip Glyde, CEO of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), and Hilton Taylor, Assistant Secretary of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office.

Mr Whan began the forum by giving a thorough insight into water policy from a national perspective.

MDBA CEO, Phillip Glyde, presented on where the Murray-Darling Basin Plan is up to and some of the challenges being experienced.

“[The Murray-Darling Basin is] Australia’s heart. It’s us. It’s worthwhile saving,” Mr Glyde said.

“It’s no wonder it is so highly valued and [there is] such active debate. We welcome the debate as well. We welcome the scrutiny.

“One message that I hear is that we all want to restore the Basin. We all want the best out of it. We all want that healthy, thriving Basin for future generations to enjoy.”

Mr Glyde said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was one of Australia’s most scrutinised pieces of public policy and had stood the test of electoral change.

He said there had been nine separate federal inquiries into the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, as well as numerous state inquiries. He said there were links to 70 other independent reports on the Plan on the MDBA’s website.

“Water management is fiendishly complex,” Mr Glyde said.

“Some of the views you hear seem, to me, to be counterintuitive. Water management is complex, it’s confusing.

“What really annoys me is when interest groups push information forward that is just wrong.

“We’re seven years into a 12-year plan, and our report card we released in early July indicates we’ve got a lot of work to do.

“We’re not claiming victory by any stretch of the imagination.

“We’re making good progress in things like water recovery, managing compliance, and the delivery of water for the environment.”

Mr Glyde said cooperation was going to be important in the continued implementation of the Basin Plan.

“We all need to make that contribution to make a difference.”

Hilton Taylor, Assistant Secretary of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office, said since 2009, over 9,000GL of Commonwealth environmental water had been delivered across 15,000-20,000kms of river system in the Murray-Darling Basin.

“Our whole mindset is the fact that we’re operating in a functional, operating Basin,” Mr Taylor said.

“Public scrutiny is one of the key drivers that we have.

“When things are really dry, we put that water to really strategic refuges.

“We’ve got to make the best of what we’ve got.”

Mr Taylor presented delegates with the following points about what had been achieved with Commonwealth water for the environment:

  • More than 750 watering events in the last 4 years
  • Iconic Murray Cod breeding in large numbers in the Lower Darling
  • Helped bring endangered species back from near extinction (e.g. Murray Hardyhead)
  • Helped waterbird populations recover in the internationally significant Macquarie Marshes
  • Kept freshwater flowing to the Coorong from the River Murray for over two years
  • Sustained native fish in the Northern Basin and provided critical relief for communities during the drought