Australia’s Coorong wetlands and the Murray River’s Lower Lakes could be given a lifeline with just 60 gigalitres of water, the Senate inquiry’s report said.

Releasing the report, Australian Green Senators Rachel Siewert and independent Senator Nick Xenophon, said their findings contradicted the federal government’s “pessimistic view” of the future of the water systems.

Ms Hanson-Young said evidence given during their inquiry had shown that enough water can be found from the estimated 1,500 gigalitres of water available for allocation within the southern part of the Murray-Darling system.

“There is no white flag for the Coorong,” she said. “All we need is just 60 gigalitres by next September to save the Coorong and lower lakes.

“It is a realistic hope. It is possible and it can be done – provided the Commonwealth Government has the political will.”

The report called for a Commonwealth-funded taskforce to be set up to oversee the rescue of the Coorong, and ruled out the suggestion to flood the Lower Lakes with saltwater.

But Water Minister Penny Wong said the inquiry had shown there is not enough water in the Basin to save every water system.

“The evidence presented to the inquiry indicated there is very little fresh water available right now for either the Lower Lakes or for the numerous other icon sites throughout the Basin,” she said.

“Even if some fresh water were immediately available from the northern Basin, about 70 to 80% of it would be lost in transmission before it could reach the lakes.

“The evidence presented to the Senate Inquiry makes it clear that the extended drought, plus the emergence of climate change, means that there is not enough water in the Basin to do everything that we want.”

The government has committed AUS$200m to the South Australian Government to find a long-term solution to the problems facing the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

Kate Martin

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