BirdLife Australia is a member of the LifeBlood Alliance, an alliance of groups advocating for a Murray Darling Basin Plan that will deliver a healthy and sustainable future for communities and ecosystems throughout the Basin.
The Murray–Darling Basin supports around 98 species of waterbirds, including many migratory shorebirds. It is one of the most important breeding areas for waterbirds in Australia. However, between 1983 and 2006, waterbird populations suffered a massive collapse in numbers, with total waterbird abundance falling by 80%.
This decline in waterbird populations has been linked to the ecological decline of major wetlands throughout the Murray-Darling Basin, in particular the large wetlands on the lower reaches of the Condamine-Balonne, Gwydir, Macquarie, Lachlan and Murrumbidgee Rivers.
The Australian Government has the opportunity and power to reinvigorate wetlands and rivers throughout the Murray-Darling Basin. However, the Proposed Basin Plan represents a lost opportunity. It proposes a sustainable diversion limit (SDL) of 2750 GL/year, putting short-term social and economic concerns ahead of the long-term health of the river and the communities it supports.
Recent modelling indicates that an SDL of 3200 GL/year, combined with the removal of some river constraints, will improve environmental outcomes in mid and high floodplain environments in the southern Basin. Areas that would benefit include Gunbower-Perricoota-Koondrook forest and Riverland-Chowilla floodplain. This scenario would achieve 17 out of 18 environmental targets for the River Murray.
This is great news, but many important floodplain wetlands would still miss out.
It’s too early to say we have a Plan that will provide a lasting solution to the Basin’s environmental woes. BirdLife urges all members to call or write to their local MP, urging them to delay finalisation of the Basin Plan until we have explored the benefits of returning more water, at least 4,000 GL per year to return our rivers, wetlands and floodplains.
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