Wollongong scientist among 12 leading experts to sign The Murray-Darling Declaration

Graham Harris, the Honorary Professorial Fellow of Infrastructure and Environmental Systems in the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong
Graham Harris, the Honorary Professorial Fellow of Infrastructure and Environmental Systems in the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong

Graham Harris has had enough of the public policy failure by successive governments on the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

That’s why the Honorary Professorial Fellow of Infrastructure and Environmental Systems in the SMART Infrastructure Facility at the University of Wollongong, signed the Murray Darling Declaration.

Prof Harris and 11 other leading Basin experts signed the Declaration on Monday, February 5.

The signatories came up with the Declaration to highlight their real concerns and offer solutions to fix the Murray-Darling Basin.

Prof Harris, the foundation chief of CSIRO Land and Water, said there was no time to waste.

“Successive governments have tried various options for restoring what you might call environmental flows to the river….our group has decided we’ve had enough of another failure of public policy and want to offer real solutions,” he said.

It is more than five years since the Basin Plan was enacted and $6 billion has been spent on water recovery.

“The problem at the moment is that there's really no evidence that the money that has been paid out has really achieved anything,” Prof Harris said.

‘’We need to stop what we are doing and freeze funding for new irrigation projects until the outcomes of water recovery has been fully and independently audited.

So in the face of climate change, in the face of reduced rainfall and the face of reduced water flows, we need some pretty smart public policy – and that’s not what we're getting at the moment.

Professor Graham Harris

“We’re calling for the establishment of an independent, expert body to deliver on the key goals of the Water Act (2007).

“Can we please have something equivalent to the National Water Commission back again – a statutory body which is assigned to actually look at compliance with the act and public policy.”

Prof Harris said there was quite a head of steam building up momentum looking critically at the “failures” of the 2012 Basin Plan, pointing to the Wentworth Group report and the 4 Corners program on ABC in July 2017, as examples.

Prof Harris felt climate change was the “sleeper in this global problem”.

“Reports have surfaced that Cape Town is running out of water and is going to go dry in April,” he said.

“But it isn’t just poor South Africa that has had droughts. Perth has gone through a drastic decline in its watering flows...but has managed to get a handle on its water supply.

“The main problem with the Murray Darling is increasing decreasing flows. We are going to get more salinisation and we are going to spend money dredging the mouth of the Murray, as we are doing at the moment.

“The Currawong in particular is going to turn into a bunch of salt lakes.

“So there is a real conservation, water management and even irrigation issue because you can’t irrigate in salty water.

“So in the face of climate change, in the face of reduced rainfall and the face of reduced water flows, we need some pretty smart public policy –  and that’s not what we're getting at the moment.”

This story UOW expert joins group declaring to fix Murray Darling Basin first appeared on Illawarra Mercury.