Today (6/3/09) The Age newspaper reported that the South Australian Premier, Mike Rann, will be holding Victoria to the constitution in relation to the distribution of water from the Murray-Darling river system. The paper also reported that Victorian Water minister Tim Holding in return accused the South Australian government of having an “appalling” record with water. But how well placed is Victoria to make such a judgement? The state is the largest user of water from the Murray-Darling at 34.2%, with SA only drawing 9.3% (The Age). The state has also recently started farming rice which requires fields to be flooded, wasting water through evaporation and ground absorption. New South Wales (which draws 32.6% of water from the river (The Age)) produces most of Australia’s rice crop, with all of the country’s harvest being grown in the Murray-Darling basin. Cotton is another water demanding crop that is grown in the basin, and has been the cause of deforestation in Uzbekistan and salination in the Aral Sea (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cotton).
These and other crops are unsuitable for growing in Australia in general, where rainfall is barely high enough in some places to provide water for day-to-day tasks; towns in South Australia such as Goolwa are simply running out of water. Crops such as these can be imported easily from other countries, allowing our water to be used in more useful ways, after all it’s be harder and more expensive to import water than it is to import rice and cotton. The Murray River requires constant dredging to keep flowing to the Coorong. Despite the water situation, rice can still be grown in Australia; several species or rice can grow on dry land, some of which are perennial which would also fix some soil erosion problems. Victoria, and New South Wales, should put tighter restraints on the farming of high water usage crops, perhaps limiting the total number of hectares that can be grown? Goolwa is thirsty, as too is Victoria.
(6/3/09 - Melbourne dams at 30.6%, down 4.8% from same time last year.)
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