Rob Locke, The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper
District landholders are bracing for flooding this year, with concern expressed that it could be as bad as the 2016 flood event.
Hume Dam is already at 76 per cent capacity and rising, with predictions it will spill.
There have been calls for the Murray-Darling Basin Authority to release water to reduce the possible impact of flooding.
And, this all comes at a time when local irrigators have a meagre 10 per cent allocation, which Southern Riverina Irrigators chair, Chris Brooks, describes as ‘disgraceful’.
According to media reports, NSW Water Minister, Melinda Pavey, has acknowledged that allocations were conservative because of the recent drought, describing comments about the low allocation as ‘fair criticism’.
Mr Brooks said despite increased water in storages, the region’s irrigators only had access to “a fraction of their licences.”
“There’s 5820 gigalitres of water in the Murray system and the volume that they have given to the region here for general security productive use is 3.3 per cent. Does that sound fair?” Mr Brooks asked.
He said while allocations are expected to increase, growers need early announcements so they can commit to summer cropping programs.
“You need to have the water allocation and all your fertiliser in place by about September, so giving us a water allocation in January or February is a complete waste of time. Irrigators carried over water from last year because it was allocated too late,” he said.
Other farmers are frightened at the impact on their properties if there is a repeat of the 2016 flood, which many believe was caused by poor water management.
Some have stated publicly that if nothing is done a flood is ‘inevitable’.
Tocumwal farmer, Rob Locke, has long advocated for improved water management, saying the 2016 flood was ‘man-made’.
“There were lost crops and distressed livestock as floodwaters inundated properties. We do not want to go through that again.
“Water managers need to stop their ultra-conservative approach and start more effective management of the resource. We’ve been highlighting the adverse consequences of poor management for many years, but to this point we have not seen much positive action.
“Surely, we are not going to allow another flood, just five years after the last one, when it doesn’t have to happen.
“When it occurred in 2016, we highlighted how we wanted to work with government and its agencies to explain to them that flooding is likely to occur more often under the flow targets of the Basin Plan.
“We have called for acknowledgement of local knowledge from the MDBA and other water authorities, who rely on computer models which have proven to be flawed. But it falls on deaf ears.
“When Mother Nature brings flood events there is nothing we can do, but when human management of the system leads to floods that are damaging and heartbreaking, it is unacceptable,” Mr Locke said.
“All we want is improved management of the system, so the floods are avoided,” he concluded.
This article appeared in The Koondrook and Barham Bridge Newspaper, 5 August 2021.