The California State Water Resources Control board, elected officials and others frequently tout Australia as a model for managing limited water resources. Specifically, Australia’s long history of dealing with drought is seen as a way to help California avoid making the same mistakes – Australia has already been where California is heading.

Hillston New South Wales
Hillston, NSW, where numerous businesses have closed because of declining commerce due to the purchase of farm water by environmental water rights holders.

On August 16, in a letter to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, the agency charged with implementation of Australia’s Basin Plan, five prominent Australian farm organizations emphatically argued for a multi-pronged approach to treating environmental issues. The letter cited the economic devastation that results from simply dedicating more and more water exclusively to environmental purposes and expecting that to solve the problem. After listing multiple tactics that can and should be employed, the letter went on to say:

“We submit that the focus on ‘adding more water’ as the singular management tool, under the Basin Plan, must cease. Instead, a dedicated effort must focus on a range of measures that provide an equal balance to food and fibre production, the social and economic outcomes for communities and the environment.”

The California Farm Water Coalition has long argued that continuing to flush more water out to sea, even though there is no evidence this approach has provided measurable environmental benefits, is the very definition of insanity. This year alone, California has flushed over 1 million acre-feet of water out to sea, enough to provide 6 million domestic users with water for a year or grow almost 17 billion salads.

The Lachlan River near flood stage in Hillston, NSW. Muddy water is the result of bottom-feeding invasive carp stirring up the river bottom.

Farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, as well as urban water users should be furious at this reliance on outdated, failed practices that help no one and hurt millions.

Let’s learn from Australia before it’s too late and shift our focus to multi-pronged, common sense and science-based solutions as identified in this Public Policy Institute of California report.


Recommended Posts