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Water allocations hurting SA irrigators -

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LISA MILLAR: In South Australia, more evidence of the dire water situation, with irrigators facing
the prospect of receiving as little as four per cent of their water allocations in the Lower Lakes
region.

The irrigation industry itself has admitted some producers will have to simply close down.

The situation is so grim at the lower end of the Murray that some irrigators with allocations can't
even access their water.

And even if they do get to it, it's so bad, even the stock can't drink it.

Nance Haxton reports from Adelaide.

NANCE HAXTON: The Lower Lakes of the River Murray sustain a variety of industries, including as
much as 20 per cent of South Australia's dairies, and the wine region of Langhorne Creek.

But with record low inflows into the River Murray, the lakes are becoming increasingly unsuitable
for irrigation, spelling disaster for those producers.

The Murray Darling Basin Commission is even considering flooding the lakes with salt water as a
last resort measure to stop exposed soils from turning into sulfuric acid.

Water expert Joe Flynn says it's a harbinger that radical change is needed in the region.

JOE FLYNN: I thank that readjustment is inevitable. Governments throughout the world, not just in
Australia, find that very, very difficult to deal with.

NANCE HAXTON: Is that because it's such an essential commodity, essentially?

JOE FLYNN: No, I think it's more than the essential commodity that's part of it. I mean, we all
have a deep attachment to water and what it means to us.

I think it's just, very bluntly, that there's going to be some industries and some communities that
prosper, some that decline, and that's a very brave government that wants to speed up that
confronting that issue.

NANCE HAXTON: Joe Flynn is the CEO of the Water Industry Alliance, a cluster of 200 companies
representing the water sector.

He says tough decisions need to be made, and governments at all levels need to provide more support
to irrigators to make them.

JOE FLYNN: We're going down the path of death by a thousand cuts.

NANCE HAXTON: And they need more help than that?

JOE FLYNN: You need a policy that gets water trading working. That's number one. And you need a
policy that helps communities adjust, which is a... some sort of welfare policy.

NANCE HAXTON: Water Economics Professor and member of the Wentworth Group of Concerned Scientists,
Mike Young, says while reforms are needed, getting irrigators out of their respective industries
should not be seen as a fix-all for the River Murray.

MIKE YOUNG: It's going to be clear that we can't keep all the assets alive, all the environmental
assets alive, and all the irrigation alive. So there's going to be a very careful assessment that's
going to have to take place. It's going to be difficult, but it must be thorough.

NANCE HAXTON: So it's not just a matter of saying... cutting off the Lower Lakes and therefore
following the logic that some people would say that would give more water upstream?

MIKE YOUNG: Well, it would make actually more water available to all users, but it does have
massive adverse consequences for some people, and huge environmental risks.

NANCE HAXTON: And Environmental Sciences Associate Professor Justin Brookes from the University of
Adelaide is concerned that people could be singling out irrigators, when long-term structural
change in the management of the River Murray is also needed.

JUSTIN BROOKES: The Lower Lakes is an obvious target, because there's so much water stored there.
If we were to consider the system as a whole, and look at whole-system health, then water flowing
not just to the lakes but actually into the Coorong as well and freshening up the Coorong would be
the preferred situation.

NANCE HAXTON: Even irrigators themselves admit that some will have to leave the land.

Chairman of South Australian Murray Irrigators, Tim Whetstone says it's an increasingly desperate
situation they're having to face, and not all producers will survive.

TIM WHETSTONE: It's a tough call for people at the moment. They are at the bottom of the river, and
they're also probably under the most pressure at the moment.

NANCE HAXTON: So it's time for some tough decisions? Some people will have to get out of the
industry?

TIM WHETSTONE: Yes, I think so. And, you know, really I don't want to be having to say that, that's
personal decisions that irrigators are going to have to make for themselves.

LISA MILLAR: Tim Whetstone, the Chairman of the South Australian Murray Irrigators, speaking with
Nance Haxton.