Mar 17, 2023 | Media Releases, Media Releases 2023

Lower Murray River communities are facing a potentially catastrophic convergence of events according to the Aither water supply and demand in the southern Murray-Darling Basin Report[1] released by the Victorian Government.

The report highlights that with existing permanent plantings, there will not be enough water in a severe drought for all of the trees. With maturing trees, new plantings and proposed new development, there will not be enough water to keep all of the trees alive during future droughts.

Shadow Water Minister, Senator Perin Davey said Murray River communities are facing increased uncertainty that will only be exacerbated by the Labor Government’s recent buyback announcement and potential future buybacks.

“This issue won’t just effect permanent plantations but will have flow on impacts across the entire southern connected water market and other industries like dairy, rice and broadacre cropping,” Senator Davey said.

“Of particular concern is the Lower Murray regions below the natural constriction at the Barmah Choke in NSW, Victoria and all of South Australia, where demand during the next severe drought could outstrip water supply by two and a half times.

“If the Labor Government goes ahead with its plans to buyback the additional 450GL and any shortfall from SDLAM projects of up to 300 GL that would be around one million megalitres worth of licences, it would be the end of irrigation reliant communities in the Murray Darling Basin,” she said.

Senator Davey also referred to a Murray Darling Basin Officials Committee (BOC) Document produced last year, which the Government sought to keep secret, that shows the Murray River is in danger of choking up with sand compromising the ability to deliver the current demand volume of water from the Murray Rivers dams downstream of the Barmah Choke.

“The BOC document shows within a decade there will be an 80GL per annum shortfall which can be delivered to the Lower Murray from upstream dams,” Senator Davey said.

“It further states that there is ‘no agreement on how to share a shortfall or any clarity on how to progress the issue’ and ‘there is a real potential for a shortfall to cause significant economic loss to the regions downstream of Barmah-Millewa and do long term damage to the intergovernmental relationships.

“The Document makes it clear doing nothing will cost $230m/yr and will likely result in long term damage to relations between the jurisdictions and the ability to develop and implement good water policy for a considerable period.

“The Labor Government’s current approach to addressing these issues is sleep walking us into one of the greatest economic and social catastrophes we have witnessed in the Murray Darling Basin,” Senator Davey said.


[1] Water supply and horticulture demand in the southern Basin – 2022 Update – Water Register