Understanding Climate Risk

Science, policy and decision-making

Wentworth Group spurns draft MDB v2 plan

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The Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists have withdrawn from engaging with version 2 of the Murray Darling Basin Authority’s plan to return sustainable environmental flows to the MDB. The first plan was withdrawn under controversy with fierce opposition from irrigators within the basin, largely because of the way it had been introduced and how the cuts were perceived. The original plan comprehensively reviewed water yield and use catchment by catchment. The results provided scientific estimates of the reductions needed to sustain an environmentally healthy system while retaining core regions of high yield irrigation.

So what is the main issue? The original plan had estimated that if 6,983 Gigalitres were recovered, environmental targets would be met with high confidence, and if 3,856 GL were taken back, they would be met with low confidence. The number in the v2 draft 1,000 GL lower than the low confidence figure, so leaves pretty much bugger all (a technical term meaning bugger all) hope of achieving the desired outcome. The Wentworth Group have pulled out of the formal process. Their statement is provided here and GetUp are organising a petition (follow the above link) and other actions to demonstrate the level of public support for water reform. If you feel strongly, please sign.

I suspect the wet year and temporary recovery of water storages has taken the pressure off and the weaker draft plan is the result. This is what happens when science gets jettisoned in favour of political compromise.

Proper recovery of environmental flows doesn’t necessarily mean that irrigators are thrown to the wolves. The industry doesn’t distinguish well enough between effiency, yield and volume in assessing water futures. The first draft plan didn’t help in that respect at all, and failed to take an integrated approach, concentrating on reducing institutional risk to the MDBA. Hopefully, I can make some time to go into more detail in another post.

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Written by Roger Jones

May 22, 2011 at 1:22 am

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