$50m spent in Murray-Darling water scheme

The Australian Government is buying back about 35bn litres of water from Murray-Darling Basin residents in a bid to boost the area's river system.

The $50m buy-back scheme is part of a £3.1bn long-term plan to save the waterways under the government’s Water for the Future programme.

It is the first time the federal government has directly bought water for the Murray-Darling Basin.

The announcement came just after a day after new figures released by the Murray-Darling Basin Commission showed the drought in the area is getting worse. In June the rivers had the lowest inflows on record.

“Purchasing water from willing sellers is a crucial step in supporting healthy rivers and tackling the effects of climate change – priorities under the Government’s Water for the Future plan,” Climate Change and Water Minister Penny Wong said.

“A Stakeholder Consultative Committee has been appointed to assist in evaluating the success of the $50 million purchase, and to provide feedback on the design and implementation of the Government’s water purchase program into the future.

“Our water purchase program will mean that rivers in the Basin will get a greater share of water as it becomes available.”

The government has set up a new website to provide information about its water entitlement purchases, including those for the Murray-Darling.

Senator Wong said Government is also investing $5.8bn in sustainable irrigation infrastructure and initiatives to help communities adjust to using less water ahead of the new Murray-Darling Basin cap on water extractions.

In a joint press conference, Australian Green senators Rachel Siewert and Sarah-Hanson-Young renewed calls for urgent action on the waterways.

“It is time for the South Australian Government to stop referring to this as a drought and start planning for the long term impact of climate change on the river and the state,” said Senator Hanson-Young.

“This is a dire situation needing urgent action and no further delay.”

Kate Martin

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