Alpine riverkeeper Acacia Rose writes: The Snowy River had a bit of a drink last week— about 18 gigalitres, which is a lot of water for a very tired river that rarely has anything more than a trickle through a couple of hose pipes below Jindbayne Dam. The whiz kids who designed the porous suite of Snowy legislation and agreements reckoned that the Snowy River ‘owed’ if it wanted a key tributary back, the Mowamba. That means, any water put back into the Snowy River has to be paid for! The Snowy River never owed a soul a cent.

The Snowy River must be owed billions for diversions over five decades let alone the Snowy Region for lost income due to well, very little water in the river. The Snowy River is little more than a political football, kicked around at every election with a bit of footage on the TV when the water sprays out of the hose pipes that stick out of Jindabyne Dam wall.

Meanwhile, upstream (and the Snowy is not even a stream for kilometres at a stretch) practically all the decent tributaries are aqueducted into Guthega or Island Bend dams and sucked into the massive portals that send water on its way to the MDB. You can actually see the weirs and dams on Google Earth and yes, many of the alpine tributaries stop dead before they reach the Snowy apart from the Finn River near Disappointment Spur.

The Murray-Darling Basin is still being wet nursed by the Snowy River and it is well and truly time it managed with less or without. “Sustainable agriculture” means to feed the nation with serious “sustainable diversion limits” on all catchments and rivers. The problem is that it appears that the authors of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan guide forgot about the Snowy or have treated it as a ‘special case’. If the Snowy farmers pumped the Murray eastwards to feed the depleted water table on the Monaro and the dairy farmers along the still drought stricken Eurobodalla, there would be a major national outcry all the way to Adelaide.

While the big ‘irrigators’ in the MDB cry water poor, the Snowy and its communities has done without, for over half a century, and without a penny of compensation.

The very leaky Snowy Corporatisation Act means that there are no real enforceable targets for Snowy environmental flows. It does not look good for the Murray River system if legislators can’t get the Snowy right. It will be a dog’s breakfast for both small farmers, the ‘blockies’, and the environment when the chips are down.The main winners will be the water traders or big holdings, the ‘blockers’ upstream of the Murray with their massive weirs and capacity to bulk buy water.

It is time to wean the Murray-Darling Basin off the Snowy catchments and probably the most painless way, is to reduce the Snowy allocation year by year until the Murray-Darling Basin is finally, self-sufficient.

This is part of a Rooted series from different interested parties — farmers, lobby groups, environmentalists, etc — discussing their reactions to the guide of the draft Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the community consultations surrounding it, called Murray Murmurings. If you’d like to contribute your thoughts, email [email protected]

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