There’s a pitched battle underway in Australia’s Murray Darling Basin over how much water humans can take from the system for their own use, and how much should be left for the river-fed ecosystem. One of the corollary arguments here in the states involves the human economic value of instream flows for recreation – river rafting, ecotourism and the like. Here’s a very clever Australian farmer trying to blunt that argument – too much water in the river is bad for tourism!
Mr Hatty said thousands of tourists packed his area of the Murray River region during the summer months and school holiday times, especially during the Easter break, swelling the town’s population and boosting the economic “harvest” for battling local businesses. But if the local river system swells by about 20,000 mega-litres per day or more, it can cause water levels to rise significantly and prevent access to beaches and family recreational areas, like those designated for camping.
Stepping away from the tourism complaint (of which I’m a little sceptical), the rest of Mr Hatty’s arguments seem to be representative of some other reports: many farmers have gone to quite some lengths to adjust to reduced availability. They’ve reduced capacity sometimes and made some great efficiency and monitoring improvements.
I mean, here you have a *rice farmer* arguing he doesn’t need as much water as authorities are offering in the new plan. A crop that is fairly water-intensive, whilst offering pretty good value for money in the end product.
There’s an undercurrent in the feedback from the farmers that sounds like “stop catering to those who didn’t adjust so well.” Whether their assessment of the downstream users wanting more (particularly South Australia) is accurate or not, I can’t yet get my head around.
[Aside: isn’t Stock & Land the most awesome online newspaper to browse through? It’s a look into a whole different set of priorities and interests.]
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