Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Your View: River Murray water quality

RECENTLY I made a nostalgic visit to the area of my childhood, Jervois, in the lower reaches of the River Murray. I was absolutely astounded and bewildered. The practice of returning used Murray water back into the river has resumed.

Ten years ago when the Murray was at an all-time low with high salt levels and no flow, the government banned pumping used water back into the river. The used water previously flowed through sluice gates, flooded dairy swamps, drained into channels and was pumped back into the Murray. The water left the Murray cloudy but relatively clean, and was returned as a polluted, smelly, almost blackwater. I know this as I lived on a dairy farm close to a pumping station and reclaimed swamp channel systems for 15 years. The water being returned to the river was highly saline and contained phosphates, fertilisers and cow faeces.

Ten years ago when many dairy farmers sold their water licence allocations to Victorian irrigators, many dairy farms stopped operating. Only a few remain. About this time, I visited our early dairy farm and noticed most of the sluice gates had been removed. They were no longer needed as the reclaimed swamps were not being flooded.

Imagine my dismay when I returned to this area and saw the sluice gates being used again and the pumping stations where used water is returned to the river having new pipes feeding directly into the Murray.

Is it now okay for this dirty water to be put back into the Murray? Why don’t the current farmers use this recycled water to irrigate lucerne on the highland areas instead? Many areas of South Australia rely on Murray water for domestic and stock use. The quality of Murray water is of utmost importance.

Stop these bad practices now.

Trevor Fiegert, Coobowie

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