27 October, 2016

Murray Darling Basin Plan-Big 2016 Wet-Reminder

The big winter wet of this year (2016) is a timely reminder of the flaws in the MDB Plan. I have long been fascinated by inland water flows in this very flat land, with highly variable rainfall, which is the predominant feature of Australia. Dorothea Mackellar got it so right with her classic line "Droughts and Flooding Rains". She might well have added "And not much in the middle".

My interest in the subject became even greater when I found myself Chairman and CEO of an agricultural company whose interests included an irrigation business growing cotton on the Darling River upstream and downstream of Bourke.

My first impressions as I familiarised myself with this business were:-

  1. The human characteristic of always seeking to blame somebody for water shortages and the reluctance to attribute these shortages to natural factors.
  2. The meaningless of average statistics when the spreads around the average are enormous.
  3. The failure of water authorities to appreciate the massive magnitude of the big events, and their frequency, albeit irregularity.
  4. The persistence of these authorities to maintain an attitude of "we must determine how much water for this or that" when "we" have very little control. Man fiddles at the edges. Nature dominates.
For the MDB Authority to ask CSIRO to come up with single Annual Volumetric Limits (AVL's) for each of the significant rivers in the basin is a stupid question from people who clearly do not appreciate the above facts. Limits should be based on percentages of actual flows. Note that from the big events , a very small percentage can amount to a huge amount of water. This massive variability cries out for more dams to spread the benefits.

The 2016 'big wet' winter, following an extremely dry period with no flow in the Darling River below the Menindee Lakes, is a wonderful demonstration of the key characteristic with which we live in this fascinating country. The volume of water that has flowed past Bourke in the last fortnight now exceeds the volume attributed to Sydney Harbour-500,000 megalitres or 500 gigalitres.

David Boyd

17 October, 2016

Profound MDB Comment

Letter to the Editor of the Australian

In its penultimate paragraph your article “Up to their eyes in it but entitlement denied”-The Australian 17 October; reads”....nature has remained the true determinant of the health of the Murray Darling”. This is a profoundly accurate truism. The failure of our scientists and water bureaucrats to recognise this, is at the heart of the totally flawed Murray Darling Basin Plan.
In the depths of the Millennium Drought we mistakenly blamed the natural impact of low river flows on “mismanagement and over allocations”. We then developed highly impractical mechanisms to remedy the situation at great cost to production and socio-economic health.
Recent flooding has dramatically demonstrated the highly variable nature of our river flows and the limited power of man to intervene. The Plan should be rescinded and practical knowledgeable people involved in its re-writing.

David Boyd