Australia’s water security has been, and always been, be a constant challenge for existing communities, and future economic opportunities.
The water we drink, the food we eat and the health and sustainability of the river systems like the nation’s food-bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin, are of vital interest to all Australians. Water policy must have genuine respect for the ‘triple bottom line’ of social, economic and environmental outcomes. Irrigation and primary production communities have grown around waterways that are the lifeblood of those communities. Water policy must have due regard to the impacts that restricted water taking opportunities will have upon those communities.
Efficient and better use of water improves productivity, food and other farm exports and the availability of water for household and primary production purposes.
Water rights attach to land and have been paid for by landholders – for instance, farmers – when they or their forebears bought the land. As such, it is wrong to force farmers to pay again for their water taking rights through new or increased water or natural resources management levies (see also our policy on Property Rights).
Government decisions are made to reduce water taking rights must be based on robust, reputable and transparent scientific method under continual review to reflect changed rainfall, environmental and other circumstances.
Wherever possible, serious consideration should be given to improving water security through removal of constraints of water flow, and building dams for flood mitigation and water storage. Desalination plants have proven incredibly expensive and a burden to the cost of water utility users.
The Murray-Darling Basin
Less than 3 per cent of the water in the Murray-Darling Basin is used by Adelaide consumers. Family First believes the way that 3 per cent has been managed has been grossly inadequate. A full analysis of what happens to the other 97 per cent is crucial if the interests of South Australians are to be protected.
- Family First believes South Australian families are entitled to put fresh food on the table and get clean water out of the tap at prices that do not burden low and middle income households.
- Family First believes water prices in South Australia are too high.
- Family First believes that water restrictions are unnecessary.
- Family First believes that the problems of the River Murray are not engineering problems or agricultural problems but are political problems.
- Family First believes that if the electorates through which the Murray, Darling and tributary rivers flow had been a marginal seats, there would be more far more action to address the myriad problems associated with the river than has previously been the case.
- Family First believes the Murray Darling Basin Plan fails to adequately address the concerns of South Australia and its efforts to be efficient in its water use.
- Family First believes “What can’t be measured, can’t be managed.” It is vital that a verifiable measuring system which picks up every extraction point along the length of the River be implemented – but at the cost of Government, not the landholder. If river health is a statewide or national social good, the cost burden should be borne collectively, not by the landholder.
- Family First believes South Australia should use all the resources at its disposal, including genuine High Court action to protect its water interests.
- Family First believes the South Australian State government should reserve the right to revoke the handover of its constitutional powers over the River Murray from any national body should it fail to serve the best interests of South Australia.
Articles of Interest
The Murray Estuary
[Dr Jennifer Marohasy, reproduced with permission]