There are two subjects you are told to never talk about in polite company – religion and politics.
But lets add water to the list because it’s an emotionally charged conversation starter that is guaranteed to kick start debate, especially if you come from different parts of the state. Whether it’s irrigation water for cotton or drinking water in the Northern Rivers or even whether dams are the answer, everyone has a point on view on this hot commodity.
For so long the state’s farmers have been fighting over the lack of water.
You might have thought that now dams are filling and the rivers are flooding the debate would have quietened.
But, instead we are fighting over who gets the water now available – the memory of how quickly it can disappear still fresh in everyone’s mind.
In particular there is anxiety in the Southern Basin that the water flowing down from the north might not reach them – and if it does, could quickly pass them by.
Control of the Menindee Lakes is expected to pass from NSW to the Murray Darling Basin Authority later this week – when the 640 gigalitre trigger point is reached.
Menindee locals are concerned that once the MDBA take control, water will be released downriver to supply South Australia’s entitlements – with the MDBA still pedaling the ‘use it or lose it’ philosophy, pointing to the lakes yearling evaporation rates, which can be as high as 700GL/year.
Meanwhile, floodplain harvesting again led to heated debates in parliament this week.
There is a sense of déjà vu as the government’s floodplain harvesting regulations are posed to be disallowed by the Upper House yet again.
The regulations have split party lines, but both their supporters and detractors say they are campaigning for the same thing – better outcomes for downstream communities.
The truth? Like many water issues it is buried deep inside policy and legislative technicalities that the average punter finds difficult to discern.
So while we are enjoying the rising of our water supplies, we need to think carefully how to manage it in the coming months and years so we don’t get into trouble again.
Now is the time for water agencies and governments to seize the opportunity to preserve what we have and use it wisely.
Like the hay reserves, we don’t want to see it whittled away by mice, before our water fortunes turn around. Especially when the next drought is only around the corner.
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