29 Nov 2011

New Murray-Darling Basin draft plan opposed from outset

8:25 am on 29 November 2011

A new draft plan for the Murray-Darling Basin in Australia was released at midnight on Monday and is already running into heavy flak.

The ABC reports it appears to be headed towards a political roadblock unless major changes are made.

The draft plan recommends a water use cut of 2,750 gigalitres per year - well down on the original figure of 4,000 gigalitres - phased in over seven years to minimise the economic and social impacts.

Farmers and irrigators say the figure is still too high. But conservation groups say the cuts do not go far enough and the lower part of the river system will suffer.

A possible High Court Challenge has already been flagged by South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill who says the plan is inadequate and does not factor in water savings already made in the state.

The federal opposition says the draft plan lacks detail and will cause uncertainty for regional communities.

The plan calls for a 20% cut to the amount of water allocated for irrigation, but farming groups say it does not spell out how that water will be used.

The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is hold a consultation for 20 weeks.

The Murray-Darling Basin covers 1.05 million square km and contains over 40% of all Australian farms. It serves New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.