A recent Four Corners report by ABC was supposed to show the full picture of irrigation and water management in the Murray Darling Basin region. A statement from the Queensland Farmers Federation has expressed disappointment in the misrepresentation that took place.
The Murray Darling Basin spans four states; with Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria all impacted. State governments in each region permit the extraction of water from the Basin for irrigation purposes. Growing demand in the region for irrigation, combined with droughts have placed pressure on this region to keep up with demand.
Various solutions for water management have been proposed, implemented, and dissolved. We have seen caps, initiatives, various pieces of legislation, and water rights come and go.
The impact of water use in the Murray Darling Basin on our environment has been widely publicised; we all saw the news about the massive fish kills in the Darling River, but there were hopes that the Four Corners report, entitled Cash Splash, would paint the real picture.
A picture of political interests pushed hard up against ever-increasing pressure being placed on farmers from domestic and international communities who rely on these regions for crops and agriculture products.
The main issue at hand
Due to the number of farms relying on the Murray Darling Basin, there is a cap on the amount of water that can be used for farming. There is a Murray Darling Basin Plan in place which limits and has the intention to reduce, this cap. Because this cap exists, there is a finite amount of water that farmers can use. If one farm uses more water due to purchasing some, then another farm has to decrease their use.
The Four Corners report ponders whether the ‘lucrative’ plan is being used to encourage farmers to plant thirstier crops than cotton, but to that QFF President Stuart Armitage had this to say: “Farmers will use their water allocation to grow the most profitable crops available to continue their business, support their families, employ local people and underpin regional economies.”
Queensland farmers speak out
Far be it for us to think that Four Corners would shy away from some ‘explosive’ and ‘heavy hitting’ journalism. But when something like this has the potential to harm the image of the Queensland farming industry, and cause issues for farmers who are already struggling – it begs the question as to why they would not seek to be more factually accurate.
Mr Armitage said it was critical that government water policies were aimed at meeting environmental, economic and social outcomes. When managing a resource like water, with growing demand from an ever-increasing population, it is imperative to approach problems with pragmatism and raw facts.
As Mr Armitage stated, “the water infrastructure programs have provided much needed certainty for farmers and Basin communities so they can keep farming and support their local communities.”
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