Releasing more water from upstream
The against group emphasizes the over-allocations upstream as the main problem, and the drought as secondary but exacerbating the problem. However, they do acknowledge that we do not know enough about the total amount of water available in the system, and rightly advocate a catchment wide study be done.
It is certainly true that individual states, particularly Queensland, appear to have taken more than their fair share of the total water available, but the process of working out just who actually owns the water resources of Australia and how they should be fairly distributed has not even started. Once these principles have been worked out there is then the legislative process to institute them, particularly the transfer of control from states to the federal government. (Even with the recent agreement of the government to bring forward license buy backs, were all the water to be allocated to the Lakes, may be insufficient to restore the Lakes by the amount necessary to keep them viable as fresh water bodies).
Many issues need to be worked out, such as whether certain crops should be grown in Australia. All this is agonisingly slow, and it is doubtful that the degradation of the Lakes will wait until a fair system is instituted and implemented. The water storages upstream are at record lows, and any precipitation in the next few years will be prioritised to those storages. If the drought continues, there will almost certainly not be adequate fresh water available to maintain the previous state of the Lakes.
Once again, we have come to expect that rainfall patterns will be the same in the future as they have been in the last 50 years, which was an unusually wet period. In the meantime our populations have increased and our demand on more scarce water resources also increased. Attention to sensible water conserving methods such as stormwater retention and aquifer recharge are only occurring in isolated areas, too slow for the Lakes.
by Elizabeth Gordon-Mills, Phd