The NSW Select Committee on Floodplain Harvesting is currently considering the future of how overland flow water in the NSW Murray Darling Basin will be managed and regulated. Large volumes of water periodically flow over the Basin’s flat landscape and the practice of diverting this water into large private storages has become widespread in the northern Basin. This practice, known as floodplain harvesting, is used largely to grow cotton for export, with minimal value added in Australia.
Despite a cap on water extraction in the Murray Darling Basin based upon rules and infrastructure in place on 30 June 1994, floodplain harvesting volumes have been allowed to increase to levels far in excess of the Basin Plan. This has occurred without proper monitoring, measurement or regulation. As a result, floodplain harvesting is having a huge impact on the health of rivers, communities and downstream water users.
This briefing note highlights six clear reasons why floodplain harvesting should be limited to the legal volumetric limits set out in the Water Act 2007 (Cwlth), the Basin Plan 2012 and the Water Management Act 2000 (NSW).