Water mismanagement triggered ecological disaster in Australian rivers panel concludes

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Country By Dennis NormileJan. 31, 2019 , 1:15 PM Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Emailcenter_img Even before a recent massive fish die-off put Australia’s Murray-Darling Basin in the headlines worldwide, scientists had been warning that mismanagement of the region’s scarce water was setting the stage for an environmental disaster.They were right, a report released today by a special government commission concludes. The yearlong inquiry found that too much water is being taken out of the river network for irrigation and household use.The Murray-Darling system comprises more than 100 named waterways that drain 1 million square kilometers in the country’s arid southeast. Heavy irrigation has left the lower reaches of the rivers running at about a third of historical levels and sometimes completely dry. Occasionally, as over the past 6 weeks, the flow is too low to flush nutrients from agricultural runoff through the system, leading to algal blooms and subsequent fish kills. Jeremy Buckingham’s Office Dead fish floating in the Darling River near Menindee, Australia, earlier this month. A year ago, the state of South Australia—which hosts a relatively short stretch of the Murray River including its mouth on the Southern Ocean—empaneled a royal commission to address a long list of questions about the effectiveness of the 2007 Water Act and the 2012 Basin Plan, both created to preserve the ecology of the river system. The report contends that implementation of the Basin Plan has lost sight of the Water Act’s original intent, which was to “ensure the return to environmentally sustainable levels of extraction for water resources that are overallocated or overused.” That clear objective has “morphed into a misleading and dangerous misunderstanding” that there should be a balance among economic, environmental, and social considerations, the panel says.The commission’s 44 recommendations include making new assessments of how much water must be left in the rivers to sustain the basin ecology, studying the impacts of climate change, increasing decision-making transparency, and purchasing additional water for the rivers through buybacks from farmers. Although the report is 750 pages long, some of its findings are amusingly terse. To the question whether the current implementation of the Basin Plan is “likely to achieve the objects and purposes of the [2007] Act,” the commission simply answered: “No. See entire report.”“The Royal Commission has provided an outstanding service to the nation,” says Quentin Grafton, an economist specializing in water issues at Australian National University in Canberra. But the fate of the recommendations remains to be seen. Implementation of some will require coordination between other Murray-Darling basin states—New South Wales, Victoria, the Australian Capital Territory, and Queensland—and the federal government, as well as revisions to both the Water Act and the Basin Plan that would likely meet with fierce resistance from farmers. But, “If just half of these recommendations could be followed, a much better future for the basin is likely to ensue,” says Caroline Sullivan, an environmental economist at Southern Cross University in Lismore, Australia.last_img