Barmah Choke is feeling the squeeze

By Country News

The Barmah Choke continues to be damaged due to the pressure of meeting downstream demands, the Standing Committee on Environment and Energy has been told.

Speaking at an inquiry into environmental water use in Albury earlier this month, Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Gabrielle Coupland said the Murray River could not continue to be treated like a pipe to the end of the system.

‘‘The Barmah Choke as a constraint is real; it is natural and if it continues to degrade, the risk to our local environment has major implications for downstream river operations as well,’’ Mrs Coupland said.

The committee was told of the potential environmental and ecological damage that can occur while trying to address issues downstream.

Southern Riverina Irrigators presented to a public hearing alongside representatives from the Murray-Darling Wetlands Working Group, the Murray-Darling Association and the Wentworth Group.

‘‘On the surface you may think that panel would have nothing in common, but we were all in total agreement that you must not sacrifice one area for the sake of another,’’ Mrs Coupland said.

‘‘The Wetlands Working Group raised the example of the Barmah Choke which we had raised in our written submission.

‘‘It is widely known that the capacity of the choke has decreased, and the view is that this is due to the pressure put on the banks from running the river high throughout the year to meet downstream demand.

‘‘It is a very real example of the damage that can be done through good intentions and poor implementation.’’

With the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism, which outlines 36 projects to return 605Gl of water to the consumptive pool, Mrs Coupland said the projects would allow operators capacity to better manage flows to provide variability and avoid a constant high flow through the choke year-round.

‘‘We need government and the Senate to understand that volume alone is not the answer,’’ she said.