The 4 Corners episode on Monday night this week shone a number of lights on the Murray-Darling Basin and its Plan. It was high-rating, disturbing viewing for the main beneficiaries of the Plan, those who mostly live in far-off cities and countries but depend on the Basin and its communities for food, fibre and other of life’s necessities. Regrettably, for some it reinforced the mostly uninformed but popular view that all irrigators are environmental vandals.
Undoubtedly the program was more disturbing for the relatively small populations who live in communities scattered throughout the Basin; those whose investments and livelihoods depend on their ability to understand and to work with the rivers and streams in harmony; reading the signs, managing theirs and others expectations, developing intelligent policy around water flows, off-farm and on-farm infrastructure, extractions and salinity risks and balancing all of these complex human elements with the needs of the waterways, the flora and fauna across the entire expanse of the great Murray-Darling Basin. These are the custodians of the Basin; those who know it, who love it and care for it.
Hopefully those accused of cheating were disturbed.
The good news is that those in the four Basin States and the ACT are acutely aware of their responsibilities to work together to establish and maintain sustainable relationships with the network of rivers. They also remember, it took more than 100 years to construct the agreement known as the Plan. It’s a 12 year plan; just five years in and it’s working. Runs are piling up on the board. Water previously allocated and diverted from the system has been returned; 2000 gigalitres of the initial target of 2750 gigalitres is already back in the environment bank.
Water use efficiency has been boosted enormously and productivity levels have improved through the initiatives, the efforts and the investments of hundreds and hundreds of committed irrigators; the custodians.
Unquestionably, the plan is working.