A REPORT released today by the Australian Environment Foundation (AEF) questions the claim by the South Australian government that the Murray River’s terminal Lower Lakes have a freshwater history, a key plank of their demand for an additional 4,000 gigalitres of water under the Murray Darling Basin water reform plan.
The draft plan requires large reductions in water use to maintain an artificial freshwater lake system that has been in environmental decline since the completion of massive sea dykes in 1940 that separate the Lakes from the the Southern Ocean, the AEF said.
Biologist Dr Jennifer Marohasy was commissioned by the Foundation to prepare the scientific report, which shows the Lakes previously had a flourishing and vibrant estuarine environment. The new report is supported by other peer-reviewed science papers and the historical record of the Lakes.
“This report demonstrates that emblematic Ramsar listed upstream environments such as the Barmah-Millewa forest and the Macquarie Marshes, as well as many basin communities, are put at risk to maintain a man-made artificial environment without a sound basis in science” executive director of the Foundation Max Rheese said on the release of the report.
“Opening the gates of the sea dykes to let the tide in will restore the natural estuarine environment of the Lakes and remove the imperative to find very large volumes of water for the Lakes as the draft plan currently indicates.”
Returning the Lakes to an estuarine environment would also save up to 1000 gigalitres of freshwater that research shows is evaporated each year from Lake Alexandrina.
“The Australian government’s $10 billion basin plan is based on a premise that either must be publicly substantiated or abandoned,” Mr Rheese said.
“People concerned about the environment of the Lower Lakes and the Murray estuary demand that the final basin plan be based on real science, not water politics” he said.