Idealistic Water Strategy

Australia is the most arid continent on Earth and second only to Antarctica as the driest. Add to that a degraded river system and future climate change scenarios, and Australian irrigators face serious challenges.

CSIRO research shows that water scarcity in south-east Australia started up to 15 years ago, somewhere between 1993 and 1996 when the rate of water resource capture and use started to exceed the rate of stream-flow supply. What makes the situation appear so much worse is that the sixties and seventies were wet years, which is also when we started capturing river flows in large reservoirs for our growing cities and irrigated agriculture. In retrospect, it appears we have become over-reliant on what is now looking like ‘bonus’ rainfall during that time and now farmers and rural communities will pay the price. The up to 45% reduction in water allocations recommended in the recently released draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan is a world-first national strategy to come to grips with scarce water resources and ensure there is sufficient water available for key environmental assets and functions, while seeking to optimise social and economic outcomes.

For our many overseas readers, the Murray-Darling Basin is 3,375 km long, more than 1 million square kilometres in area and is one-seventh of the Australian land mass. It covers parts of the States of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia, and the entire Australian Capital Territory. It produces over one-third of Australia’s food supply and generates 39% of the national income derived from agricultural production, an estimated $15 billion each year. Its waters directly support over three million Australians. The draft plan seeks to overhaul the way water is distributed to various interest groups along Australia’s largest river system with the objective of stopping the environmental degradation that is occurring and ensure a sustainable future for our farmers. How the draft plan will be translated into Government policy a year hence remains to be seen, but the challenge will be to find a balance between the needs of farmers and the environment as well as the economic interests of the country. The irony is the long drought appears over, the river system is overflowing, and plant species once thought extinct have re-appeared!

To paraphrase Gilbert and Sullivan, if you wish in this world to advance you must bumpet and strumpet and blow your own trumpet, so it gives me great pleasure to announce we have revamped our website and cracked over 500,000 hits per month. It will come as no surprise to our many visitors that one of the website’s great strengths is the wealth of free articles accumulated over almost 20 years. The powerful search feature lets users find key topics quickly and easily. And of course, our digital edition goes from strength to strength with readers across every continent. The digital edition is now available on the world’s largest newsstand of any sort, including print ( Another popular destination is PHGTV, our growing video library featuring real commercial enterprises, interviews with industry experts and product reviews. I encourage readers to share their clips that have a hydroponic or greenhouse focus. Enjoy the website experience!

Steven Carruthers

PH&G November/December 2010 – Issue 115