If we were to build the barrages today

We would not make the same mistake today.

Today, if the building of the barrages were to be proposed in these modern times, and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert were nominated as part of a water storages initiative for the Murray Darling Basin, neither would last more than a day or two as viable options.

The barrages would be tossed out of the equation because of the enormous environmental impact, and the lakes as storage would be doomed to failure as they are too shallow in relation to the very large surface area (evaporation loss is far too high). The lake beds are predominantly made of porous silt and marine deposits. They leak through seepage.

Strategies to restore and manage the lakes are at risk of mis-direction when the observations and opinions of a generation that has only ever seen it in an altered state (post barrages) are the basis for serious direction. The condition and ecology of the area before alteration (pre-barrages) must not be ignored, and good scientific research and knowledge to paint an accurate picture, seen only by past eyes, should form a base line to the future.

Then and only then can good engineering and hydrology skills take into account the catchment alterations we have made, to enable the development of a long term management solution.

By Mike Young & Ken Jury