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Coorong water woes -

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ELEANOR HALL: The Australian Conservation Foundation has put forward a proposal it says could save
the River Murray's Lower Lakes and Coorong.

It is calling on Federal and State Governments to combine forces to buy six properties along the
Darling River.

The Foundation says this would free up around 300,000 megalitres of water, which could then be used
to flush the lower reaches of the Murray.

A spokeswoman from the Federal Water Minister Penny Wong's office says the Minister is considering
the proposal.

But South Australia's Premier Mike Rann says the water would not make it to the Lower Lakes in
time, and that anyone looking for a quick fix is deluded.

In Adelaide, Nance Haxton reports.

NANCE HAXTON: The Australian Conservation Foundation says buying the six properties on the Darling
River and their water entitlements could provide the alternative to the radical interventions that
are being considered for the Lower Lakes and Coorong, such as building a weir to ensure Adelaide's
water supply, or flooding the lakes with salt water to prevent the soils acidifying.

Rivers campaigner, Arlene Buchan, says after two major floods along the Darling Basin this year,
there's a lot of water available in private storages in the Basin, and buying these properties
would provide at least 300,000 gigalitres of water in the parched system.

ARLENE BUCHAN: This is a case of willing buyers and willing sellers so any government and any
individual could look at buying those properties but given that they are strategically positioned
in the system and they have large water entitlements associated with them, it is a wonderful
opportunity for any of those Murray-Darling Basin ... in government, to use the money which has been
allocated for water buyback and make a really big contribution to the environment.

NANCE HAXTON: The issues facing the Lower Lakes and Coorong are particularly acute. Would buying
these properties really do enough to potentially save these regions from environmental disaster?

ARLENE BUCHAN: Some of these properties have large amounts of water currently in their storages and
it might be possible to transfer that water through the system and into Menindee Lakes and that
could offset water which could be released from Menindee Lakes and would reach the Lower Lakes and
Coorong.

So yes, there is an opportunity for us to look at purchasing those properties or their water
entitlements or leasing the water and using that to get through the system to Menindee Lakes and
offset water from Menindee sent to the Lower Lakes and the Coorong. Really we need to be doing an
audit of all the water availability.

NANCE HAXTON: A spokeswoman for the Federal Water Minister, Penny Wong, says the government is
looking to talk to any willing sellers of water in the Murray-Darling Basin, whether they are small
scale farmers or large operations.

She says that would ride on any proposed offer being at a fair market price and also providing
clear environmental benefits.

The Murray-Darling Basin Commission's acting CEO Les Roberts says buying the properties along the
Darling River would not free up enough water to save the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

LES ROBERTS: The Darling River is now not flowing and as little as 20 per cent of the water that
you would release out of those storages would eventually make it through to the end of the system.
There are very significant system losses.

That's clearly a matter for governments to consider in terms of approaches to water recovery.

All those water recovery measures are viable options and then that water then becomes part of an
environmental pool which can be used.

NANCE HAXTON: South Australia's Premier Mike Rann agrees, saying people are looking for a quick fix
that doesn't exist.

MIKE RANN: I believe that, you know, I have always maintained that there is no place in Australia
in the basin for Cubbie Station but even if that, most of the time Cubbie Station is actually empty
so if you bought it say two or three years ago and people would feel that that was a good thing to
do, but there was no water in it.

And I think it is crazy having rice farming and cotton farming in Australia, but the point of the
matter is, that even if those things happened and they were closed down, that is not going to
release water that would get to the Lower Lakes anyway.

NANCE HAXTON: So you say that you don't want to build the weir but couldn't buying these stations
be an alternative to that? The Australian Conservation Foundation says it could release up to
300,000 megalitres by buying those six properties.

MIKE RANN: If you look at the figures that absolutely ... hardly any of that water would get down to
Adelaide let alone get down to the Lower Lakes to evaporate so, you know, we want to see a buyback
of licences, but anyone who thinks there is an instant fix is a phoney.

ELEANOR HALL: That is South Australia's Premier Mike Rann ending that report by Nance Haxton.