By Victorian Shadow Water Minister Steph Ryan
Big Buffalo has been dreamt about for years but no one has ever found the political will to build it.
In the past the conversation has always been about expanding irrigation and it was always quickly ruled out because of the cap on diversions that was introduced across the Murray-Darling Basin in the late 1990s.
But low allocations and record high water prices means it now warrants examination through a different lens.
The Federal Government has $3.5 billion on the table to build new water infrastructure and is begging Victoria for projects, but the Andrews Government is giving the Commonwealth a flat ‘no’.
Water Minister Lisa Neville has said there are no available dam sites in Victoria and building a new dam in the basin would take water from elsewhere.
This shows a concerning lack of vision and a lack of understanding about what we have proposed.
Examination of Big Buffalo is warranted to help secure existing entitlements to underpin reliability of supply.
Climate scientists agree that future weather patterns mean we will have more intense rainfall events and longer periods of drought.
When Victoria saw widespread flooding in 2010, the highest rainfall in the state was at Mt Buffalo, where seven inches of rain fell in a single weekend.
We need dams to capture rainfall events like that when it falls, to get our communities through longer droughts.
It means better allocations, more often, for irrigators. It’s also an important tool for flood mitigation.
Lake Buffalo has reached 100 per cent capacity every year since 2003.
The water that has spilt at Lake Buffalo could be bolstering allocations this year and putting downward pressure on temporary water prices.
My proposal is to examine Big Buffalo, a deep and efficient storage site, in return for reducing reliance on Lake Victoria, where 130 Gl of water evaporated last year.
I don’t pretend that building Big Buffalo would be an easy project.
Building the Snowy Hydro and Big Eildon weren’t easy either.
But it’s a project that could be a game-changer for northern Victoria.