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Murray system drought highlights dire situation.



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Fri, 9th May 2008 MURRAY SYSTEM DROUGHT UPDATE HIGHLIGHTS DIRE SITUATION

The Hon John Cobb MP Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Water Security

The drought affecting the Murray Darling Basin is having a devastating affect on communities, farmers and the environment and urgent help is needed.

Today's release of the Murray System Drought Update by the Murray Darling Basin Commission is very grim reading.

The Prime Minister has been silent on the impact of the drought in the Murray Darling Basin and must immediately increase funding to affected communities and farmers in the MDB, Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Water Security, John Cobb said.

''There has been no respite from the unrelenting drought in the southern Murray Darling Basin system and irrigators, the environment and communities are in a worse situation now than they were this time last year.

''The Lower Lakes have been particularly hard hit and with just enough water for critical urban, stock and domestic needs, the dire situation in the Lower Lakes can only be solved by rain and lots of it.

''Despite some good rain over summer, the hot weather in March and the lack of rain over Autumn is having a major impact on the morale and finances of rural and regional communities.

''After seven years of drought, 2008 will be the make or break year for thousands of farming families and businesses.

''Despite some reports predicting the end of the drought and bumper wheat harvests with even better prices, not one tonne of grain has yet been harvested and farmers are now deeper in debt than ever before as a result of the doubling of input costs such as fuel and fertilisers.''

Mr Cobb said he was concerned the Rudd Government was not communicating how bad the current situation in the MDB was with the people of Australia.

''The latest drought report states: Whilst critical urban, stock and domestic requirements for 2008-09 are reasonably assured (but not yet guaranteed), opening water allocations for Murray irrigators in 2008-09 are again expected to be very low or zero. Critical human needs for 2008-09 can be met for urban water users taking water supplies from the main stem of the Murray provided inflows are no worse than the record lows in 2006-07.

Mr Cobb said to put it simply there is no spare water in the Murray System.

''This is not because irrigators have been taking the water, on the whole they have had their allocations reduced to zero or very low levels.

''The dire situation facing our country's food bowl is the result of the long and protracted drought.

''It is vital that Tuesday nights budget includes extra support for communities suffering from this vicious drought.