Premier Jay Weatherill launched the Fight for the Murray campaign in June 2012 to bring the community’s opinion to the forefront of the national debate on the River Murray.
The campaign aimed to raise awareness about the plight of the Murray and show that more water needed to be returned to the river to restore it to a sustainable level of health. It involved community events, stakeholder meetings, social media communities and a media campaign across South Australia and interstate.
The South Australian Government advocated during the Basin Plan negotiations for the recovery of an annual average of 3200 gigalitres (GL) of water, in conjunction with addressing constraints on the delivery of environmental water, to protect and restore the River Murray system.
As a result, the Basin Plan provides the framework to recover 3200 GL of water for the environment.
Why do we need the extra 450 GL and relaxation of constraints?
The draft Basin Plan 2750 GL water recovery scenario showed an improvement in the frequency of flow events delivered to meet environmental water requirements for key environmental assets and functions when compared with current conditions.
While the analysis identified potential for benefits to be achieved relative to the baseline under the 2750 GL scenario, the actual benefits would be fundamentally dependent on the way in which water is delivered and used.
It was clear that the return of 2750 GL of water would not meet many of the environmental water requirements for key assets in South Australia:
- Environmental water requirements of key vegetation communities, such as red gum, lignum and black box, were not met for significant areas of the floodplain including the Riverland-Chowilla Ramsar site. These assets would remain at risk of continued decline.
- The Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Ramsar site would remain at risk from low water levels and high salinities during dry periods, which would adversely affect the health of plants and animals, particularly in the South Lagoon and Lake Albert.
- The MDBA’s salt export target of two million tonnes per year was not met, especially during dry periods.
- Periods of constriction of the Murray Mouth would still occur and could require dredging to ensure the mouth is kept open during periods of low barrage flows, such as during drought.
The delivery of overbank flows required to water floodplain environments was shown to be limited by constraints on water delivery, such as limits on channel capacities and operating rules.
The analysis showed that removal or relaxation of these constraints would be necessary to deliver flow regimes that would significantly improve ecological benefits for floodplain environments in South Australia.
Key findings from the Goyder Institute expert panel supported the findings of the SA Government scientists. The Goyder Institute expert panel concluded that while there was potential to deliver some improved outcomes, the ecological character of key environmental assets was unlikely to be maintained under the 2750 GL scenario.