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Rivers in crisis yet crops off hit list Share on Facebook
THE Murray-Darling river system could run out of water within six months, the Federal Government has warned.

by Fairfax - Tuesday, 7 November 2006

Despite this, an emergency water summit called by the Government will not consider taking back water from irrigated crops such as rice and cotton, and will not include the state at the origin of the river system, Queensland.

"By the end of the irrigation season in April or May the big dams on the river will be just about empty," the parliamentary secretary for water, Malcolm Turnbull, told Channel Nine yesterday.

"That raises big issues in terms of water management: how to ensure there is water for cities and towns; how do we ensure there is enough water to support our horticultural industries, in particular."

Mr Turnbull said tomorrow's meeting with ministers from NSW, Victoria and South Australia had been called to take advice from experts about possible government action.

Although he conceded too much water had been taken from the river system, he ruled out changes to the kind of crops grown in Australia.

"I'm very sceptical about governments being able to decide what crops farmers should plant," Mr Turnbull said.

The Democrats senator Andrew Bartlett asked why Queensland had not been invited.

"One is tempted to think that Queensland has been left out of the water summit to avoid tackling the thorny issue of Cubbie Station's massive water harvesting, which also conveniently avoids risking upsetting the National Party."

The Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, said the Federal Government was too late in discovering the plight of the Murray-Darling.

"Back in 2003 [the Prime Minister] said that there would be 500 extra gigalitres flowing down the Murray; not one drop extra flowed down the Murray."

The Premier of South Australia, Mike Rann, said he was glad a previously arranged meeting with the Prime Minister, John Howard, had been brought forward. Mr Rann will push for a special premiers' conference to discuss climate change.

Attendees at the water summit will hear evidence from the Murray-Darling Basin Commission and other organisations on what can be done to help the river system, which scientists have been warning for several years was in danger.

Tens of thousands of people turned out at the weekend to push for greater action on global warming, increasing the pressure on the Federal Government to establish its credentials on climate change. The Walk Against Warming rallies attracted more than 30,000 people in Melbourne and 12,000 in Sydney.


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