Environmentalists want more water buybacks

By Rodney Woods

The Lifeblood Alliance has launched a new public campaign to emphasise that governments must adopt water buybacks as the fastest, cheapest and most effective way of meeting Murray-Darling Basin Plan outcomes.

The alliance — which is made up of environmental, indigenous and community groups — has found an estimated $100 million would buy back enough water for the environment to throw a lifeline to Murray-Darling Basin rivers and get the basin plan back on track.

“The basin plan is currently 47.5 billion litres short of the legal water recovery target, a volume of water that could easily be bought using unspent money from the Murray-Darling Basin Plan,” Lifeblood Alliance spokesperson Bev Smiles said.

“For about $100 million we could go a long way to reviving the river system that is the lifeblood for thousands of people and many regional economies.

“In the context of the billions now being spent supporting the community through the coronavirus pandemic, it is small change and the money has already been put aside.”

Ms Smiles said waiting for water recovery from infrastructure projects would mean further damage to rivers.

“People from all walks of life are very willing to advocate for the water buyback program to be reinstated as soon as possible,” she said.

“They know that recovering water from infrastructure projects is far more expensive and will take too long to deliver the results our rivers urgently need.”

Environment Victoria chief executive officer Jonathan La Nauze said purchasing the 47.5 billion litres would not breach the Federal Government's 1500 billion litre cap on buybacks.

“Insufficient water has been recovered to halt the decline in river health, let alone to reverse it,” he said.

“Purchasing 47.5 billion litres from willing sellers would not breach the 1500 billion litre cap on buybacks.

“The time is right and the time is now.

“Let’s get on with it and give our rivers and river communities a real fighting chance.”