Australia is leading the way when it comes to the delivery of water for the environment, but there is more work to do to ensure our way-of-life is maintained for generations to come.
That was the message from Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, Dr Simon Banks as he spoke at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s annual River reflections conference today in Narrabri, New South Wales.
Dr Banks said the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder had made significant inroads since its establishment in 2009 to take a collaborative approach to water management.
“It’s not just about turning on a tap to deliver water,” he said.
“Collaboration is paramount in achieving our goals.
“We work with First Nations people, local communities, irrigators, scientists and water managers to understand the complex relationships between water and the environment.”
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder is committed to working with First Nations peoples across the Basin to empower them to make decisions about the ongoing cultural and ecological management of their lands.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has also invested in science and monitoring that demonstrates just how important water for the environment is for keeping the Basin’s ecosystems thriving.
“Our investment has not only supported our adaptive management approach, it has also been significant in advancing scientific knowledge and research in the Basin and in freshwater ecosystems,” Dr Banks said.
“We have seen environmental water management grow significantly in scale and sophistication. Since 2009, we have delivered more than 14,800 gigalitres of water to support river and wetland health.
“This water has been used to support an extensive network of waterways and over 370,000 hectares of lakes and floodplains, including 10 internationally significant Ramsar wetlands.”
Dr Banks said the 2021 State of the Environment report had highlighted the ongoing need for water for the environment, particularly in the face of climate change and weather patterns like El Nino.
“The devastation of extreme dry periods should not be forgotten on the back of a couple of wet years,” he said.
“A couple of good years will not turn things around.
“While the recent conditions have been good, potentially as a re-set, it will take more than this to turn the Basin and its ecosystems around – it will take time and ongoing action.”
Dr Banks said the approach taken over the next few years in relation to water for the environment would be critical.
“Our rivers have so many different values to the people of the Basin,” he said.
“To some they are core to culture and Country. To others they are a place of refuge. For others still they are a channel for delivering water.
“We won’t ever get everyone to agree, but it’s important we keep the conversations going to achieve a healthy and sustainable balance for the Basin’s communities and environment.