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Dire warning for the future of the Murray des -

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Dire warning for the future of the Murray despite upstream floods

Broadcast: 05/02/2008

Reporter: John Stewart

Despite floods and rain in Queensland and northern New South Wales, farmers further south along the
Murray River face a worsening drought.

Transcript

TONY JONES: Despite floods and rain in Queensland and northern New South Wales, farmers further
south along the Murray River system are still battling the drought.

Today forecasters warned the Murray may become even drier than last year.

John Stewart reports.

JOHN STEWART: Today in Sydney it has been bucketing down, again. The city has recorded its average
monthly rainfall for February in just four days.

Further north, some of the heavy rains and flood waters in Queensland have flowed into the Darling
River in northern New South Wales.

In Bourke, cotton growers are celebrating.

IAN COLE, BOURKE COTTON FARMER: The river's great and the environment's looking good. We've got
lots of green grass around, people have started to plant crops again and water crops.

JOHN STEWART: But the Murray River system in southern New South Wales, parts of Victoria and South
Australia remains in drought.

KARLENE MAYWALD, SOUTH AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR WATER SECURITY: At this stage there is very little
chance that South Australia will see much improvement from the rains in Queensland.

JOHN STEWART: Today the federal government's drought contingency group warned there's a 75 per cent
chance that there will be less water in the Murray River system in June than there was a year ago.

BRUCE ATKINSON, NEW SOUTH WALES FARMERS ASSOCIATION SYDNEY: The only water available is for
critical use, urban use, stock and domestic and some industry, some critical industry, but not
agricultural industry. So we are not seeing any benefits at all in the Murray system which is very
disappointing.

JOHN STEWART: A new water sharing agreement between Murray River states was announced today,
securing water supplies for Adelaide and country towns along the Murray River.

But despite the higher inflows, South Australian irrigators will still only get 32 per cent of
their water allocations.

KARLENE MAYWALD: It's particularly difficult for irrigation communities on 32 per cent. It's very,
very difficult for people not only to manage their cash flow but there are impacts not only for
this year but also for subsequent years on their production capacity.

JOHN STEWART: Water allocations in some parts of the Darling River in northern New South Wales have
been returned to 100 per cent.

South Australia's Minister for Water Security, Karlene Maywald, remains concerned about the over
allocation of water upstream in New South Wales.

But farmers along the Darling River are in no mood to cut back.

IAN COLE: You know, people downstream really don't want to point their finger upstream and
criticise because they're big water users down there.

JOHN STEWART: New South Wales farmers say the South Australian Government needs to stop wasting
water.

BRUCE ATKINSON: They get an allocation which is more than they actually use. They have a huge
wastage down there, and particularly further down at lake Alexandrina just before the mouth of the
Murray, which is barraged off. Their losses in that lake are horrendous.

JOHN STEWART: Negotiations to nationalise the management of the Murray-Darling are continuing with
Victoria the only state still nursing grievances.

John Stewart, Lateline.