Large quantities of salt have always entered the Murray River from seepage of saline groundwater. The largest increases are usually noticed during low flow periods, for example during drought. Given the current extended drought across the basin the low salt reading at Morgan is even more remarkable. Why isn't this good news being reported?
On the basis of the received evidence, instead of revering our expert environmentalists and vilifying our farming communities, we could take a lead from Bob Carter who in his letter to the Editor of the Australian on 17th July 2003 (in response to the story of 16th) wrote, "That Murray River water quality is continuously improving, as shown by a halving of salinity content at Morgan since 1982, is about the best environmental news that Australians could have wished for. It is also a tribute to the many land owners and managers who have modified their land use practices towards just such an end. A better treatment for such good news would have been a full front-page article with the banner headline "Murray River Saved"".
It will be a travesty of justice if a single Murray irrigator should lose water allocation on the basis of the misinformation currently being promulgated by high profile scientists from our most respected research institution.
To quote Greg Easterbrook:
The Western World today is on the verge of the greatest ecological renewal that humankind has known, perhaps the greatest that the Earth has known. Environmentalists deserve the credit for this remarkable turn of events. Yet our political and cultural institutions continue to read from a script of instant doomsday. Environmentalists, who are surely on the right side of history, are increasingly on the wrong side of the present, risking their credibility by proclaiming emergencies that do not exist.
I would go further, and suggest we have institutional failure of the highest order when both sides of politics eagerly signup to a myth promulgated by our most respected research institution, the CSIRO.
This article was first published at the IPA Water Forum No. 2, Canberra, 25 July 2003. Click here for the full text with graphs.
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