Dead Fish, The Murray, and Blaming Cubbie Station
The problem with Greens like Jeremy Buckingham and Sarah Sea Patrol is that, being dwellers in an alternative Starbucks-half-shot-low-fat-pumpkin-latte-with-a-dash-of-organic-breast-milk-from-an-Ethiopian-shepherd-girl universe, they are completely unfamiliar with the nature they wish so desperately to save.
When they do encounter nature, they are terrified, for example, Jeremy Buckingham’s horrified discovery that natural gas (swamp gas) is both natural and flammable, and his certainty that this meant we were on the edge of the apocalypse. I can only assume he thought natural gas was made by specially trained Oompah-Loompahs, and served a merely symbolic purpose, gas ovens and hot water supplies actually being powered by organically grown pixie dust delivered in chemical-free hemp handbags.
Or if they are not terrified, they are disgusted. For example, poor Jeremy’s throwing up at the sight of a dead fish.
One of the Groan’s most cherished fantasies is that prior to invasion day, the Murray-Darling was a constantly flowing, ever-clear stream. Anything short of this, therefore, is considered proof of human greed and disregard for nature and also the dangers of capitalism. Also, white people are bad. Especially men.
In reality, before European settlement, the Murray Darling was, for most of its length, a series of interlinked waterholes which, every couple of years after heavy rains, changed into a massive, roaring river, gradually settling to a gentler flow, and then returning to its default; dry riverbeds and muddy ponds and lakes.
Fish died, frogs died, things dried up. Until the next flood. A bit like that poem:
I love a butthurt country, a land of weeping swains,
of plump transgender penguins roaming proud across the plains.
Jeremy Buckingham says the lack of flow downstream is all the fault of Cubbie Station. They’ve got plenty of water, which they are meanly holding back so everyone downstream has none. Because they are mean, and have paid off the government. Or something.
A summary of Cubbie Stations’ recent water use and water diversions can be found on their website. Cubbie diverts less than one quarter of one percent of the Murray’s flow. That is a lot, but it is nothing like the gigalitres allocated for irrigation downstream. And Cubbie’s allowance is almost entirely taken during the once in ten years or so storms that send massive amounts of flood water down the system. Cubbie’s storage acts as a flood mitigation system, reducing flood damage downstream, and catching water that would otherwise be lost to evaporation.
The water currently in Cubbie’s storage is water that would have been lost if Cubbie were not there. Despite the claims made by Jeremy Buckingham and others, Cubbie Station’s water allocation does not reduce flow lower in the system, nor reduce supplies available to irrigators downstream.
But if Cubbie is not the problem, what is?
The Murray-Darling is no longer a series of muddy water holes linked only in times of flood. By installing locks and pumps, we have essentially turned the lower half of the river into a massive canal and irrigation system.
We have also created a huge artificial fresh water lake system at the bottom of the Murray. Because of evaporation, the lower lakes require approximately 2500 gigalitres of fresh water flow from the Murray every year to maintain levels. This is in addition to local rainfall and inflows.
The simple fact is this: there is enough water to maintain irrigation and steady levels in the Murray, or enough to maintain the lower lakes, but not both.
The simple solution is this: build a weir at Wellington, remove the barrages, and let the Coorong and lower lakes return to their natural state.
This will return 2500 gigalitres per year of water to the Murray, and restore the natural habitat of the lower lakes and Coroong.
All that is need to solve the problem is politicians for whom the future of the country is more important than popularity.