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Water consensus

By Bruce Haigh - posted Friday, 7 November 2008

The management of water in Australia requires a whole of nation approach, which is not to argue that solutions to salinity in the MDB will have direct applicability to the West Australia wheat belt, they will not, but it will overcome the silly notion that water flowing through the MBD changes its nature and character every time it crosses a state boundary.

National management of water will make it easier to set priorities and limits on the use of water as well as oversee sustainable management practices.

Faced with the forthcoming difficult economic times, water will need all the friends and protection it can get, if the southern resource is not to come under further “productivity” strain and the north is not to be channelled for short term development dollars.


Coming to grips with the sustainable use of water is as much about getting the politics and management right as it is the science. Faced with the finance fiasco and the fear that has gone with it the federal government has been quick to act. It was seized with urgency if not panic. It says little for the collective understanding of the crisis facing water in Australia that the pace of the federal government’s response has been slow, unco-ordinated, lacking courage and lateral thinking.

So far the states have prevaricated and the major users have bullied, it’s time to call their bluff and establish a regulated framework for national water sustainability.

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About the Author

Bruce Haigh is a political commentator and retired diplomat who served in Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1972-73 and 1986-88, and in South Africa from 1976-1979

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