There has been a lot of talk recently about the Commonwealth Government’s plan to buy back water rights from irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin. The NSW Morris Iemma government has also started making noises about it.
I am surprised, however, that one other feasible solution for increasing flows in that basin has not been mentioned. I refer to the diversion of water from the basins of the Clarence and Richmond rivers in northern New South Wales.
There are many good dam sites available. Hydro-electricity could be generated to provide the energy to pump the water over the divide and the devastation wreaked by periodic floods reduced.
The combined mean annual run-offs of the Clarence and Richmond basins total 7,400 gigalitres, which is equivalent to about one third of the natural run-out of the Murray-Darling system (prior to any diversions from or to it).
Allowing for downstream releases to meet the needs of existing users and environmental requirements, it should be possible to divert the greater part of the flows of the Clarence and Richmond into the Murray-Darling Basin.
There are, of course, other rivers further to the north in Queensland that could be diverted, as proposed by John Bradfield among others. Such solutions would avoid the drastic steps proposed by Senator Penny Wong and the likely damage to the economies of the many towns that are currently supported by irrigation.
I therefore hope that the Rudd/Swan/Wong triumvirate and their NSW counterparts will closely examine such schemes which could readily be financed with the funds being allocated to the buy-back of water from irrigation farmers.
John A.H. Brown,
Wentworth Falls, NSW