Murray-Darling Basin storages brim full of hope
Towns, industries and the environment are set to benefit from the Murray-Darling Basin’s significantly replenished water storage as a result of widespread rainfalls in 2021.
In stark contrast to the state of the Murray-Darling Basin in 2020, when storages were nearly empty, prospects are now good for Australia’s south-eastern foodbowl, with good cropping prospects also on the cards.
Keith Pitt, the Minister for Resources and Water, celebrated the rising tide in the Murray-Darling Basin’s fortunes.
“Two years ago, some towns had run out of water and some of our major centres were projected to run dry – but today it’s a very different story with water storage across the whole Basin now over 92% full, creating more jobs in Basin communities.
“While there are areas in the Basin that are still experiencing dry conditions, I recently visited Lake Burrendong which has reached 121% capacity, the highest of any catchment across the entire Murray–Darling system.
“It was only 2 years ago when the water situation in the region become dire with Burrendong Dam sitting at only 1.5% capacity.
Sophie Baldwin, a rural water advocate from northern Victoria , detailed the need for more communities in regional Australia “to have a voice”.
“The last couple of years with my involvement in water advocacy really highlighted to me that rural communities just don’t have a voice.”
“I represent a farming group and they contribute to producing $6bn in agricultural products, we couldn’t even get the Water Minister to respond to a letter.”
Announcing her candidacy as an independent running for the federal seat of Mallee in north west Victoria, Baldwin was also firm on water availability for farmers:
“I certainly don’t support any more water leaving productive agriculture.”
Minister Pitt praised the Basin's tight-knit communities and said 2022 will bring renewed hope for many producers that have lived through the difficulties of drought and Covid-19 disruptions.
“This is yet another testament to the necessity of well-built and managed dams that will continue to serve our Murray-Darling Basin communities for years to come.
“It’s been great to see communities able to breathe a sigh of relief and plan for bumper crops in 2022.
“Smarter management of the Basin’s water is delivering more benefits for our farmers with Australia’s overall 2021-22 winter crop production forecast to reach a record 58.4 million tonnes.
“According to ABARES, summer plantings are expected to increase 36 per cent to almost 1.4 million hectares, meaning more jobs in regional towns, boosting local economies and protecting the enviable lifestyle of more than 2.2 million Australians who call the Basin home.”
The developments come after a federal government announcement last week that the commonwealth government would pledge $80m for Murray Darling Basin Toolkit projects.
With a sizeable water injection, Australia’s wildlife will be massively enhanced, according to Pitt:
“In 2021, water made its way down the Darling Anabranch for the first time since 2017 and reached the Murray River, providing fresh flow for vegetation, fish, birds and people along the way.”
“The flood waters have already attracted numerous wildlife species back to the area, including native birds and fish.
“While the area will take some time to recover from the long-term impacts of drought, the rain has certainly helped turn the health of the habitat around.”