Freshwater finding won't end lakes debate

Freshwater finding won't end lakes debate


THE long-awaited Independent Review of Lower Lakes Science Informing Water Management is unlikely to end debate on the lakes' future.


THE long-awaited Independent Review of Lower Lakes Science Informing Water Management, led by the CSIRO, was released this week, and while Murray-Darling Basin Authority chief executive Phillip Glyde (pictured) hopes the report will end debate on the lakes' future, I think this might be wishful thinking rather than a likely outcome.

SA Water and Environment Minister David Speirs also believes the report should "put to bed" any further pushes to open the barrages and allow seawater into the lakes.

But it's clear his interstate counterparts don't share this view, with NSW and Qld ministers already advocating for the barrages to be open in times of extreme drought, or questioning whether enough fresh water will be available in the coming decades as the climate changes.

Related reading: Calls to remove Lower Lakes barrages 'put to bed' by new report

Yes, climate change is likely to make managing these important sites more difficult - but the Lower Lakes and Coorong are hardly alone there. If the climate changes in the way some models suggest, then managing every aspect of the Murray-Darling Basin will become harder. It's yet another reason why achieving unity across the basin is important - even if it seems impossible.

Take evaporation as an example. It will remain a hot topic, given climate change is tipped to make it worse, but any discussion about reducing evaporation should also focus on the large, shallow private dams that store water in the eastern states.

Debate about water resources and how we manage them won't ever go away. We live on the driest inhabited continent, and the MDB stretches across four states.

The water in the basin sustains countless communities, and gives life to a huge range of agricultural sectors that feed the world and drive our economy.

Related reading:Doubt remains whether report will appease eastern states

Unfortunately, a lot of the time, there's just not enough water for everyone to be able to take as much as they like.

While debate about water and the MDB Plan will continue, the frequent calls to open the barrages and cast the Lower Lakes out to sea, so to speak, should evaporate after the report concluded the lakes have been "largely" fresh for hundreds of years.

Cutting off the Lower Lakes has long been seen by some as a silver bullet, reducing environmental water requirements and resulting in higher allocations for irrigators.

But if, as the report says, this would not deliver any water savings, what would be the point?

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