Humphries’ Horrible History on Water Management – Part 1

When it comes to bad decisions about water management, Water Minister Kevin Humphries has form.

He recently rushed new laws (the Water Management Amendment Bill 2014) through parliament which allow more releases from storages like the Menindee Lakes by forcing the Office of Water to make their decisions on how much to release based on out-dated data that effectively ignores the millennium drought and future climate change. The impact of this change is to release more water in the short-term for irrigators, but potentially dams will run dry if a new drought hits because management decisions have to be based on pre-2004 data, and up-to-date data is ignored.

He didn’t even pretend that this wasn’t his aim, saying in parliament:

“When the millennium drought is taken into account, implementation or implementing this current water sharing plan rule would result in significant quantities of water being taken out of production and held in reserve in case an equally severe drought occurs. Modelling indicates that the existing rule could reduce general security licence allocations by 8 per cent, on average, and up to 20 per cent in some years.”

Humphries is essentially saying that based on the 100 years of climate data pre-2004 we have a perfect understanding of what the future climate will be, even though the Government’s own 2014 State Infrastructure Strategy, released this week, says:

“Studies predict that the Murray–Darling Basin climate is likely to become drier and more variable in the future. Average surface water availability across the entire Basin is projected to fall by 10 per cent by 2050.”

It may deliver a boon for irrigators in the short-term, but it is an utterly irresponsible decision by Minister Humphries. He has deliberately stuck his head in the sand, but is leaving farmers and the cities, towns and villages of regional NSW extremely vulnerable. This reality is becoming stark with much of the state already in drought, water storages dwindling and with predictions saying a new El Nino is becoming likely.

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