Water

Accuracy of water data questioned

By Country News

There is growing concern that targets to ensure a healthy Murray-Darling Basin are not being met, a South Australian royal commission issues paper says.

The Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission paper, released on Thursday, says it’s doubtful estimates of 2106Gl of water being recovered by buybacks and infrastructure investment are accurate, due to figures being ‘‘compromised by illegal take’’.

‘‘There are varying reports as to whether the basin plan, since 2012, has achieved any of its objectives of improving the health and resilience of the eco-systems and ecological functions of the Murray-Darling Basin,’’ the paper says.

The commission, established by the South Australian Government in January, will visit communities across the nation after first hearing from the state’s Murray Bridge residents last month.

‘‘The commission’s terms of reference require it to investigate matters and inform itself of issues across the entire basin,’’ the paper said.

Senior counsel assisting Richard Beasley said it was important for the commission to hear from people who relied on the basin as a water source.

‘‘We anticipate this will be a significant part of the commission’s inquiry and will provide important information from local communities,’’ he said.

The Federal Government has not decided if it will permit bureaucrats to give evidence, while the NSW Government said it would respond to written questions.

The SA royal commission, which is being led by QC Bret Walker, will travel to all four basin states to meet with communities.

The commission was established after reports emerged of widespread water theft upstream, and its report is expected to be handed down on February 1, 2019.