Sunday, August 10, 2008

Not Looking Good for the Murray-Darling (Part 2)

Here is another story on the problems facing the Murray-Darling River.

Murray protesters demand water

Pia Akerman
The Australian
August 11, 2008

THOUSANDS of protesters gathered at the mouth of the Murray River at Goolwa yesterday, demanding the urgent release of water in upstream states to save the stricken lower lakes.

The rally was the latest action in a mounting campaign against assertions by the state and federal governments that there is not enough water that could be released upstream to make a difference for the lakes.

Issuing a call for at least 250gigalitres of water to be released for the lower Murray, Alexandrina Council chief executive John Coombe said there was more than 5000GL available in the upstream storages.

"We need help to save our communities and businesses, and above all else, we want water to save our river and environment," Mr Coombe said. "All we want is our political leaders to have the fortitude, the will, to release some of it to save the lower lakes."

The crowd of about 5000 people lined around the Goolwa foreshore and on the Hindmarsh Island bridge, booed mentions of federal Water Minister Penny Wong, who is a South Australian senator, and Premier Mike Rann, neither of whom attended.

Alexandrina Mayor Kym McHugh called on Kevin Rudd to declare a state of emergency, saying the release of upstream water was critical to prevent aneconomic and environmental disaster in the area.

University of Adelaide ecologist David Paton warned that even 350GL would not be enough to save the lakes and the internationally recognised Coorong wetlands. "All it will do is buy a little bit of time before the same problem recurs," he said.

Over-allocation of water throughout the river system was the fundamental issue.

"The recent (Council of Australian Governments) agreement did not aim to fix it quickly -- it simply put off the decisions until 2018," he said. "Ultimately what has to be provided is an environmental flow, an allocation of water that is available for the environment every year, not just in dire straits."

Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert have become increasingly saline in recent years.
The receding shoreline has exposed mudflats, which risk turning acidic unless they are covered with water.

The South Australian Government has committed $30 million to site preparation for a new weir across the Murray, which would wall off the lakes from the river, allowing barrages currently separating the lakes from the sea to be opened, flooding them with saltwater.

Holding up a dead tortoise, its shell encrusted with the castings of saltwater bristle worms, Mr Coombe said the freshwater tortoises were a symbol of the struggle to keep the lakes alive.

"This is what we're fighting for," he said.

"This is what our political leaders would want us to accept."


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