Watering debate

By Country News

The Nationals have once again lashed out at a planned watering of Gunbower Forest, with Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan saying the 82Gl planned for a flow in November should be going to dairy farmers.

However, the North Central Catchment Management Authority said the watering event was important for the environment.

Ms Ryan said water resources must be used efficiently, especially in a prolonged dry spell.

‘‘Farmers are right to question whether the Gunbower watering is the best use of a precious resource right now when temporary water is trading around $330/Ml and dairy farmers need every drop they can to sustain their herds and grow fodder,’’ Ms Ryan said

‘‘We should be using every drop of water we can to support our farmers to save their farms and their livelihoods.’’

North Central CMA project delivery executive manager Tim Shanahan said in the past 22 years key sections of the forest floodplain had been inundated only eight times — stretching the tolerances of wetland and floodplain plants to breaking point.

‘‘The health of water-dependent native trees, plants, animals and fish that have evolved in these floodplain environments starts to decline when they receive half as much water as they require. That’s why Gunbower Forest needs a drink now,’’ Mr Shanahan said.

‘‘The current watering program is part of a long-term strategy to restore the health of the forest, within the restrictions of allocations and current infrastructure and capacity, and help build resilience for future dry years while water is still available.’’

Mr Shanahan said regulation had altered the frequency of water going into the forest, particularly during dry years.

‘‘Interestingly, if all the regulating structures were removed, Gunbower Forest would have received water in seven of the 10 years of the recent millennium drought, despite the dry,’’ he said.

‘‘Instead, with river regulation, only a small amount of water entered the forest in three of those 10 years, reaching only some of the wetlands and none of the broader floodplain.’’