‘We’ll be bathing in salt water’: At the epicentre of Australia’s big drought


By Peter Hannam

“….Drive north of Warren towards the Ramsar-listed Macquarie Marshes, though, and it’s easy to see why a lot of rain will be needed to revive the land and its remaining native flora and fauna. The Ramsar Convention is an international agreement to protect wetlands, many of them hosting migratory birds, that are important to wildlife and broader ecosytem health. Australia has 66 such Ramsar sites.

“It’s going to take floods and floods and floods – just to fill up the dams,” says Mel Gray, a convenor of the Dubbo branch of environmental group Healthy Rivers as she points to a six-metre-high embankment built near the Marshes.”


River on the Brink: inside the Murray Darling Basin

Exhibition runs Fri 20 September 2019 until Sun 3 November 2019.
Watson Road, Observatory Hill (The Rocks)

Shervin Gallery

This timely exhibition presented in collaboration with Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery,  focuses on what is the most pressing environmental crisis of our time:  the on-going devastation of the Murray-Darling Basin.

Art, by mysterious means, has a way of penetrating the hearts and minds of people prepared to pause and look. Led by Barkindji artists, the powerful revelations on display at the S.H. Ervin Gallery in September 2019, followed by Broken Hill Regional Art Gallery in May 2020, will re-enforce the need to act now and save our vital waterways.

The artists featured in River on the Brink include Badger Bates, Elisabeth Cummings, Nici Cumpston, Ruby Davies, Bonita Ely, Paul Harmon, Julie Harris, Eddie Harris, Kim Harris, Waddy Harris, Brian Harris, Amanda Penrose Hart, Martin King, Euan Macleod, Guy Maestri, Ian Marr, Justine Muller, Idris Murphy, N.O.T., Ben Quilty, Luke Sciberras, James Tylor, John R Walker, Melissa Williams-Brown.

Four Corners ‘Pumped’ and ‘Cash Splash’



“People are profiteering… It’s the biggest water grab in Australia’s history.” Grazier

In Australia’s most important river system, the water is so precious, it could be liquid gold.

“People want to get water in their hands because if you get water in your hands that’s big money.” Grazier

Stretching from Queensland to South Australia, billions of dollars in tax payers’ money has been poured into rescuing the rivers and streams of the Murray-Darling Basin to save it from environmental collapse.

But nearly five years on from a landmark agreement to restore the river, something is wrong.

Cash Splash


Taxpayer dollars, secretive deals and the lucrative business of water.

“It’s a national scandal.” Water economist

Two years on from the Four Corners investigation into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin that sparked a royal commission, the program returns to the river system to investigate new concerns about how the plan to rescue it is being carried out.

“How extravagant is this scheme?… I’d just call it a rort.” Lawyer

Mid-year report card highlights work ahead for Basin Plan

Published: 01 July 2019 – MDBA

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) Chief Executive, Phillip Glyde, said that while some work had progressed over the past six months, concerted action in the second half of 2019 was needed to improve the outlook for six key elements of the Basin Plan.

“We have found the current level of progress varies. Good progress is being made in three areas: water recovery, managing compliance with the rules of water use and the delivery of water for the environment are maintaining a good pace.

“On the other hand, the adjustment to the sustainable diversion limit (SDL) is at risk, finalisation of some water resource plans has been extended because of delays and more work is required to implement initiatives in the Northern Basin.

“The Basin Plan arose from an urgent need to secure the future of our nation’s most important river system, and was forged in the spirit of cooperation and bipartisanship. It is a testament to the strength and importance of the Basin Plan that this bipartisanship has endured.

MDBA Basin Plan Report Card

Back On Track!


LifeBlood Alliance – 8th July 2019

The Murray Darling Basin Plan set out to save our rivers from environmental disaster. Since the $13 Billion Plan began in 2012, there has been major concerns raised with implementation, including allegations of corruption, maladministration and mismanagement.

Communities who depend on our rivers fear that if we don’t act now to bring the Plan back on track, our rivers will die and dependent communities will decline.

Here, we present a 7 point strategy to restore integrity to the Plan, so it can deliver on its key objectives – to keep the rivers and dependent communities alive and well.

LBA Back On Track


NSW towns including Dubbo and Tamworth face water emergency within months

The Guardian

Anne Davies

Friday 24/5/19

In some central and western areas on Murray-Darling no ground water can be accessed by bores, as dams run close to dry

Towns in western and central New South Wales, including Dubbo, Nyngan, Cobar, Walgett and Tamworth, are facing a crisis in their water supplies within a few months unless it rains, prompting emergency planning by water authorities.


We Need a Broad Review for a Complex Plan

Inland Rivers Network President Bev Smiles talks to ABC Riverina 24th April 2019

The complexities in the Basin and the world of water reform are deep, and have taken many years to develop – it will take a review with very broad terms of reference to do justice to the issues we face in the Basin. There has been a spate of reviews into the Murray Darling Basin, but they all have a narrow view and deal with only certain details of the implementation of the Plan.

From an environmental point of view, we need to look at the type of licences that are being bought back. Some types of licences might not be delivering the types of environmental outcomes required under the Basin Plan. We need an audit of all environmental water being held.

We need a review broad enough to look at the whole Basin. For example, many residents and stakeholders are unhappy with the Northern Basin Amendments, which takes in the whole Darling River system. Clearly this system is extremely stressed, as we experienced with the massive fish kill at the beginning of the year.

The socio-economic definitions being referred to in the public debate are too narrow, only focusing on those few communities that rely heavily on irrigation. There are many other industries in the Basin that rely on water; commercial fishing in SA, recreational fishing, tourism and grazing for example. We cannot afford to be blinkered and risk neglecting many interconnected economies and communities for the sake of one.

Inland Rivers Network has always said that communities that are heavily reliant on irrigation will need help. Built into the Murray Darling Basin Plan was money for Regional Diversification – where is this money, and what benefits have communities seen from it?

Environmental water buy backs are easily blamed for the hardships felt in irrigation communities, but the reality is far more complex. Drought will be a tough time for irrigation communities regardless of what is going on in water reform. Another important point to consider is that when water became a tradable property separate from land, anybody could buy water access licences and shift them to different valleys, impacting existing industries as other industries grew.

Water reform and Basin Plan implementation is very complex, and it deserves a very broad, big picture review.

The Floodplain Dilema

The Land

Taking water from the top means less at the bottom, say irrigators.

EVER-widening divisions between graziers and irrigation farmers on floodplains in the state’s north, while in the south disgust at how paying water users are being treated, is heightening tensions within the Murray-Darling Basin.

This estimated 3000GL far exceeds the 1800GL NSW and Victoria are legally obliged to supply to South Australia.

www.theland.com.au the-floodplain-dilemma