Clean up rivers, get more water

IF THE rivers are cleaned up, more water will be released.

This is the crux of the major recommendation handed down by a nine-person committee which looked into issues within the upcoming Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The catchment includes massive swathes of south-western Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia. In Queensland, Toowoomba, Goondiwindi, Roma, St George, Charleville and Cunnamulla are all inside the catchment.

Tamworth is at the eastern edge of the basin in New South Wales, with Narrabri and Moree in the midst of it.

The committee, headed by independent MP Tony Windsor but made up of politicians from the Coalition and Labor, listed four recommendations, among them that the Federal Government allow extra water to be used if the river was shown to be improving in quality.

The committee also called on the government to urgently put together a plan to better monitor the river's health.

These suggestions have been whole-heartedly supported by the Queensland Murray Darling Basin chief Geoff Penton.

He said that if the river's health was shown to improve, more water could be used - but improving the river must be the priority.

"If those actions are taken and improve river health, there needs to be a mechanism that is reflection in the diversion limit," Mr Penton said.

Opposition water spokesman Barnaby Joyce said the government needed to heed the recommendations, even though he did not back the plan itself.

Although yet to be brought to Parliament, a plain English version of the plan can be found on the Murray Darling Basin Authority website.

What they said:

  • Release a water recovery strategy well in advance of the introduction of the Basin Plan to the Parliament.
  • Release the proposal for Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder water trading well in advance to the introduction of the Basin Plan to the Parliament.
  • Develop a mechanism to adjust sustainable diversion limits automatically in response to efficiencies gained by environmental works and measures.
  • As a matter of urgency, look seriously at further initiatives to improve river and irrigation management and monitoring.

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