Monday, April 07, 2008

Coorong so wronged

I saw a t-shirt emblazoned with the message STOLEN WATER GENERATION at Goolwa market on the weekend.
I wish I had bought it.
I am a member of the Stolen Water Generation. We all are, here in South Australia.
And there, right by the market was the sign of the stolen water. The swans were walking in the river. Yes, walking. In fact I walked in the river – quite a long way across dry mud to photograph a group of perplexed-looking ducks and pelicans sitting on an island that did not used to be there.

Whole new opportunistic weeds have flourished in that river mud. Dry earth plants which do not belong amid the thirsty reed beds.

We have watched for months as the lower reaches of the River Murray dried up. We try to make light of it – but deep down an anger is brewing. Things would not be so bad if it was not for our neighbours in Victoria. They are holding back the river water. Now paid off by the Federal Government, billions of dollars, to play fair with their neighbours, Victoria intends to keep its claws on the water supply for a full three more years while it puts in place various irrigation projects to give itself a “food bowl’’.
Meanwhile, next door in South Australia, our ecology continues to descend into critical crisis – possibly, at this stage, irreversible.
The Vics don’t care. The Vics have always had an odd “thing” about taking whatever they could from South Australia – be it events like the Grand Prix or ideas like festivals. Water is just another thing they can “steal”.

Not that Premier Steve Bracks and his people are altogether to blame for the river crisis. There are also the rice and cotton farmers of Queensland and NSW – sucking billions of litres of water from the Darling river basin - the upstream catchment. More lousy neighbours.

Australia should not be growing these crops at all. We are not environmentally suited. Here is the proof – the dry end of the river!

Last time I mentioned the profligate misuse of the national water resources by these farmers, I had some indignant letters from farmers’ wives. They see themselves as battlers scratching a living. The hell they are. Theirs is a recent crop in this country – and a disasterous one. Can’t they see that? They need to grow something environmentally sustainable – something suited to the conditions. To add insult to injury, Aussie rice is not even good rice, in my culinary opinion.

Of course, these farmers pay for water. And the lower reaches of the River Murray – the lakes and the once-magnificent Coorong pay dearly for their entitlement.


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Kath Lockett said...

I also spent the weekend at Victor Harbor and went to investigate the waters at Goolwa. What a truly depressing sight: a boat, moored right in the middle, clearly aground and listing to one side; a new island for very listless flocks of swans, ducks and penguins and cracked mud everywhere.

Perhaps the only thing of hope is that my grandmother remembers being able to walk across the river before the lochs were installed and later that weekend we were looking through old albums (future writing project maybe) and saw a photo of her doing so and this was up at Overland Corner, near Barmera!

Despite this, it has been nothing short of obscene to allow farmers to grow crops that clearly are not sustainable for our country and use up more than their fare share of water. Vic and NSW's attitude towards the river doesn't help and makes me so sad that even our country's states have the 'silo mentality' that we keep getting rammed down our throats to break down at endless '2020-like' summits in the workplace.

Kath Lockett said...

Oops by 'fare' I meant 'fair'