Going with the flow
In a piece worthy of Bjorn Lomborg, perennial environmental Pollyanna Alan Moran quotes stats in yesterday’s Fin (subscription required) to prove that everything is roses with the Murray-Darling and that the the sacred property rights of irrigators should not be interfered with. Here’s an extract
Upstream of Morgan in South Australia, salinity levels have been reduced over the past 20 years, and now are at the levels observed in 1938 when salinity was first measured.
Hence, for 1500 kilometres, the river’s agriculture has not adversely affected salinity, which is evident only for the last 200 kms in South Australia.
Similarly, there is no data to support claims that river usage is threatening to eradicate native animals and plants. In fact, the Murray Darling Basin Commission has only recently embarked on a systematic appraisal of the environmental health of the system.
Hence there is little evidence to justify a need for drastically curtailing productive agricultural uses of the river to bolster environmental flows designed, for example, to flush out salt and increase floods of forested areas.
Yet a chorus of voices wants Murray Darling water to be redirected from productive uses to such flows. Simon Crean has endorsed plans to divert 1500 gigalitres, some 20 per cent of the irrigators’ water in the Murray system, to environmental flows.
There are so many distortions here that it’s hard to know where to begin. But the biggest one, and a standard Lomborg tactic, is that Moran tries to argue against environmental policies by pointing to improvements generated by those very policies. As the Murray-Darling Basin Commission points out, significant reductions in salinity have been achieved only since 1990, when a Cap was imposed halting growth in extractions and thereby restricting rights previously exercised or assumed by irrigators (these rights are and were various and complex, and can’t be treated as inalienable private property rights in the simplistic fashion posited by Moran). I’ll be posting more on this in the future as my research gets into higher gear.