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Is Australia just draining taxpayer money in the Murray-Darling Basin?

17 3 0
10.09.2019

THE government has announced some recent reviews into aspects of the Murray-Darling Basin (MDB) reforms but has not yet provided a substantive response to the recent Four Corners ‘Cash Splash’ report, which highlighted some problems with the flagship of the Commonwealth’s water recovery programs in the MDB.

Its key message was that around $4 billion of taxpayer money has so far been spent on irrigation infrastructure upgrades, but that these funds underpinned an expansion in irrigation for mostly private gain.

To the casual observer, this might seem an unlikely outcome for a program with an environmental objective. Yet poor transparency around the infrastructure program and a lack of water accounting make it difficult to independently conclude differently.

Supporters of the infrastructure program point out that half of the water savings from the investments are typically handed back to the government. While this is superficially the case, Four Corners highlighted that there is neither any audit of the actual water savings nor acknowledgement of the water that previously returned to the environment through ‘leaky’ infrastructure and flood irrigation.

SEE ALSO: Where’s the accountability for Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin?

The problem is that the government does not disclose the extent of the overall improvement in ‘water efficiency’. Academics have made a wide range of estimates, but there is no way of confidently knowing the actual net water savings returned to the environment.

It’s even possible that the environment is no better off, despite the billions spent on water recovery – the government provides no information to disprove this point made on the Four Corners program.

It should concern everyone that the former Commonwealth official in charge of environmental water is concerned about the inaccuracy of the volumes of water attributed to the environment as well as the lack of transparency and precision of the accounting system used.

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© Asian Correspondent