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The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage
14 March 1999
Questions about the importance of the Murray-Darling Basin Cap were brought into sharp focus in an information booklet launched by the Cooperative Research Centre for Freshwater Ecology on Friday.
In the Booklet, "Sustainable Rivers: The Cap and Environmental Flows", Professor Peter Cullen stresses the vital importance of the Murray-Darling Basin Cap for sustainable agriculture, urban development and the quality of our water supply systems.
The Booklet, launched by the Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Robert Hill and Professor Peter Cullen, aims to raise awareness and provide better information to the community about how the Murray-Darling Basin Cap works and why it is our safeguard for the future.
In July 1997 the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Commission set an upper limit, equivalent to what could be diverted under 1993-94 levels of development, on the amount of water that could be taken from the river system. This is what has come to be known as the Cap.
"Our best chance to sustain the health of the Murray-Darling river system, the food bowl of Australia, is to maintain the Cap. Without a cooperative approach by all users within the system, environmental problems such as increasing turbidity, eutrophication, declining water quality, algal blooms and salinity will continue to increase."
"Without the sustainable limits identified by the Cap, the environment, agricultural production and domestic consumers will all suffer."
Water reform is now at the top of the environmental agenda of the Federal and State Governments, with the Council of Australian Government's (COAG) currently engaged in a major stocktake of water policies.
The COAG water reform package agreed to by the Commonwealth and all States aims to put sustainable water regulation and preservation in place throughout Australia by July 2001.
COAG water reform is one of a number of reforms that State Governments have agreed to implement under National Competition Policy payments due in July 1999 ($800 million) and July 2001 ($3 billion). Payments are due to States that can demonstrate they have implemented the water reform measures required.
The water reform framework includes such things as the establishment of environmental flows, strategies for reducing withdrawals in over-allocated systems, water pricing, water trading and ensuring the sustainability of any new water resource developments.
"Right now water reform is at a critical juncture."
"As a nation we have to ensure our water resources are properly and sustainably managed for future generations. Yet most people don't know the timetable for water reform is happening right now, or why it so vitally important to our future, whether you're looking from an environmental, agricultural or domestic point of view," Sharman Stone said.
For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, 02 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415