Call to dig deeper

By Country News

An inquiry into the management of environmental water has been welcomed, but it should have a broader focus according to the Speak Up Campaign.

The inquiry, announced on March 1, will examine the role of Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder in determining how environmental water should be used.

It will also consider how the impact of environmental water is monitored and evaluated.

Committee chair Federal Member for Mallee Andrew Broad has said it would not be inquiring into the broader Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

Speak Up Campaign chair Shelley Scoullar said the inquiry should not only consider the efficiency of environmental water delivery in the Murray-Darling Basin, but also how much environmental water the basin needs.

Mrs Scoullar said although the inquiry was welcome, the finding would be limited by its terms of reference.

She said the acquisition and use of environmental water is intricately linked to the basin plan, so it is difficult to understand how they can be kept separate.

However, at least the inquiry will question the effectiveness and efficiency of environmental water, which should have been done years ago.

‘‘The problem with excluding the basin plan from the inquiry is that the environmental targets which the CEWH has to meet are set by the basin plan. As such, to ensure the environmental water portfolio is being used efficiently the baseline data and benchmarking of the plan need to be assessed,’’ Mrs Scoullar said.

She said food and fibre producers and the water-delivery systems on which they relied on had drastically improved their efficiency in the southern basin and it was reasonable to expect a similar level of accountability from environmental water.

‘‘Virtually every drop used in the southern basin to put food on the table for Australians and people throughout the world is accounted for; we should expect the same from the nation’s largest water holder,’’ she said.