It is 23 years since the start of the millennium drought in 1997 and we have since seen a continuation of the change in climate.
In the Keelty review released on April 17 it was recommended the MDBA should undertake further analysis of the causes of reduced inflows, specifically from the northern basin and how this is impacting state water shares.
Mr Keelty, it is the whole Murray-Darling Basin that is drastically affected by reduced inflows of 50 per cent and more in certain catchments and your recommendation should have encompassed the entire basin.
Regional communities for 10 long years have continually informed the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, as well as federal and state water ministers, of the stark reality that every aspect of the basin plan has been modelled on outdated historical inflows and flood data from 1895 to 2009, yet there has never been any acknowledgement, review or adaptive management undertaken.
There has been a great deal of readily available scientific evidence, provided over many years by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO, on reduced basin inflows, plus practical knowledge and experience from landowners.
Despite this, there has been a continual failure by the MDBA to assess and report on the ramifications of a changed climate scenario.
Victoria’s North and Murray Water Resource Plan states “Victoria’s temperature has steadily increased since the 1970s and overall streamflows have decreased by about 50 per cent or more over the past 20 years".
It also states “the millennium drought brought with it a seasonal shift in rain towards less rainfall during the cooler months of April to October, when run-off is greatest, and storages are usually filling. Climate Science predicts this is the new reality...".
At the South Australia Royal Commission, the MDBA noted "that the objective of their climate change program is to build understanding of, and capacity to analyse, climate change ahead of the major basin plan review in 2026".
In other words, there is no intention to incorporate any change at all for another six years.
Goulburn-Murray Water stated in 2018 that the “climate has shown a warming and drying trend in recent decades and this trend is expected to continue”.
Yet we see no evidence that this is being factored in to any basin plan strategies.
We therefore have a plan which is fundamentally flawed, where the Sustainable Diversion Limit is simply not sustainable, where planned environmental flows are onerous and unsustainable into the future and where there has been no provision or review to adjust and balance the consumptive use between the environment and communities who are left with a very uncertain future.
This is farcical and a dereliction of the duty and responsibility of the MDBA. There must be an immediate review of all aspects of the basin plan.
Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt said “I accept the five key recommendations of Mr Keelty and I have directed both my department and Murray-Darling Basin Authority to take action to implement them”.
We have heard similar, time and time again, yet the recommendations never ever become actions where the basin plan is concerned.
That would mean the MDBA would have to acknowledge that its strategies using so-called “best available science” are wrong and maybe they should have taken more note of those experienced and knowledgeable people at the coalface in basin communities.