A vibrant estuarine ecosystem should be reestablished in the Lower Lakes, which would be more sustainable, especially during drought, than the current artificial freshwater system.
Communities and farmers around the Lower Lakes are now supplied with piped mains water, unlike the early settlers who became dependent upon the Lakes being fresh year round.
The Ramsar listing can be amended to an estuarine classification
Quoting a Murray Lands local:
"How can the lower lakes be destroyed by the entry of seawater when this is how it was in the beginning? I can recall as a boy, the excitement of watching the sea flooding in very fast on a high tide."
Historical records from the early 1900's point to Lakes that varied between fresh to brackish depending on the season, time of day, location around the lake, and river flows. A thriving Mulloway fishery was once located in Milang and depended upon the Lakes connectivity to the sea.
Even today, when the barrages are open, and river flows at 80 GL/day, seawater intrudes into the Lower Lakes depending on tides, wind, and weather. The Lakes are not 'destroyed' by this, in fact it helps with the native fish congolli spawning.
Conservation of Murray-Darling Basin resources
Restoring the Lower Lakes to an estuary reduces an unnatural demand on the River Murray to always keep the lakes full of exclusively fresh water. This frees up precious freshwater during drought for other wetlands of the Murray-Darling system that lack a natural estuarine history. The Lower Lakes when full hold 2200 GL of water and evaporate approximately 950 GL of freshwater each year.
Coastal lakes and estuaries hold tourism appeal, in stark contrast to dry lake beds. The communities surrounding the Lower Lakes depend on water, not only for crops and livestock, but water to support tourism and boating. Planting the lake bed, (as was done to combat acid sulphate soil acidification during the drought), does nothing for tourism and boating.
Opening the barrages would restore the size of the estuary, restore the tidal prism and allow storm flows to scour the Murray Mouth, making it easier to keep open than the current static system. Additional efforts to stabilize the Murray Mouth to make it navigable, similar to what has been done at Lakes Entrance, could be a boon to boating and tourism.
The Peel-Harvey Estuary and Dawesville Channel in Western Australia is similiar to the Lower Lakes.
The Gippsland Lakes have an artificial entrance into what was previously a freshwater lake system and now support a commercial fishing industry and tourism industry worth over $200 million per year.
The Clarence River, the largest river on the East Coast of Australia below the tropics, is an example of a healthy estuarine system. With no barrages to hinder water flow, its tidal influence extends over 100km upstream from its mouth and minimal dredging is required to keep it's mouth navigable.
The Gold Coast Broadwater is another example of a large shallow estuary of water. Separated from the ocean by the a thin strip of land called Stradbroke Island, the original body of water was a lagoon created from water deposited from the Nerang River.