The Lock the Gate Alliance released the statement below on October 19.
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The Lock The Gate Alliance claims that the Murray Darling Basin will be another casualty as Precautionary Principle is thrown to the wind in the resources boom.
Lock the Gate President, Drew Hutton says pressure from States addicted to mining royalties is most likely to be behind the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s (MDBA) plan to allow massive increases in groundwater use in the forth-coming Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The MDBA’s current thinking on sustainable diversion limits for groundwater in the proposed Basin Plan are almost 2,000 gigalitres greater than those stated in last year's Guide to the Basin Plan.
“Increases of this order would dwarf the recent purchases of 836 gigalitres of water for the environment through the Commonwealth's ‘Restoring the Balance’ water recovery program," Hutton said.
“Most of the biggest increases are proposed in areas where water quality is low. It’s too salty for agriculture — but not for mining or coal seam gas production.
“The Murray Darling Basin community will be sold down the river by plans to allow mining and coal seam gas industries access to huge volumes of groundwater with no scientific understanding of the likely impacts.”
Hutton demanded that any new science behind the increased figures be made public.
He said although the main underground water was of a low quality and largely unused by agriculture, its extraction could still cause water in other aquifers to draw down if there was inter-connectivity between the aquifers.
“There is very little information on inter-connectivity between these water sources and other groundwater systems, including the Great Artesian Basin.
The final report on a major study into connectivity in the Namoi catchment is not due until March 2012.
“If pressure in the Great Artesian Basin aquifers were to be affected as a result of these increases in take from deep MDB aquifers, it could be devastating for rural communities dependent on groundwater.
“State and Commonwealth politics are compromising the science behind the Draft Basin Plan,” he said.
“They are leaving the MDBA with absolutely zero credibility. They risk presenting the MDB community with a fundamentally flawed Plan and squandering the investment made in water recovery to date.”