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Media Release
The Hon Dr Sharman Stone MP
Federal Member for Murray
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister
for the Environment and Heritage

16 March 1999


Following concerns about new dam building proposed on catchment waterways raised by Sharman Stone MP, Federal Member for Murray, the Murray-Darling Basin Commission has agreed to conduct a state-by-state review of farm dams.

The review will include all Murray-Darling catchment states - Victoria, South Australia, the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Queensland.

"To date little evidence exists on how much water is captured by farm dams in the upper catchment regions. This is an important study that will greatly improve our ability to understand how the Murray-Darling Basin functions and help determine the boundaries of sustainable development for all users."

A report, outlining a comparative analysis of all jurisdictions, will be presented at the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council meeting in May this year.

"In Queensland, enormous pressure is being placed on the Murray-Darling Basin through massive increases in off-stream storage and water harvesting. Since 1993/94 it has been estimated that total off-stream storage capacity has risen from 400GL to 840GL," Sharman Stone said.

"What other states do to reaches of the Murray and the catchment basin greatly affects the quality and flow of the River Murray in Victoria. For this reason, it is vitally important that we have a cross-border, consistent and cooperative approach."

Matters to be considered as part of the stocktake include:

"Unsustainable and unchecked water harvesting has the capacity to greatly affect downstream and inland users, as well as the environment. It is an issue that demands a clear, consistent and ecologically sustainable approach from all parties."

The environment has also suffered from massive artificial and natural changes to the environmental flow regime. Victoria's marshlands have decreased in size by 70%, native fish stocks have been depleted and increasing turbidity, declining water quality, algal blooms, introduced species and salinity are now common problems.

"The fair and equitable management of dams and the health of our rivers and waterways is a top priority locally, regionally and nationally," Sharman Stone affirmed today.

"A cooperative approach between all states is essential, so Victorian users on the lower Murray don't draw the short-straw."

For further information please contact:
Nicole Johnston, Assistant Adviser, (02) 6277 2016 or 0419 219 415

Commonwealth of Australia