The weekly wash-up (March 15)

The week that was in river and water news – March 15th, 2013

Senators call for more science and less politics in MDB debate  The Senate Rural Affairs Committee calls for more and broader scientific work to be done in the Basin, and for that work to be communicated to the public in plain English. They also recommend further investigation into risks to future runoff from climate change.

River oxygen levels rise after mass fish kill  Thousands of dead fish have been found in the Hunter River (NSW) as floodwaters flow downstream. Government officials say low oxygen levels were to blame but that fish communities should recover quickly.

Burke adopts water trigger over CSG approvals   Big in the news of the week was Tony Burke’s proposal to expand the federal government’s powers to override state approvals of large coalmines and coal seam gas projects if water resources are at risk. This triggered a backlash from some state governments and from industry, which accused the government of reneging on its promise to reduce green tape.

Arrow energy in hot water over coal seam gas impacts   Arrow Energy will generate up to 264 billion litres of water from its Bowen Basin coal seam gas project over its 40-year life, its environmental impact statement revealed. The Independent Expert Scientific Committee, set up by the Federal Government criticised Arrow’s lack of information on the potential impacts on the basin’s groundwater, and said Arrow did not adequately address potential impacts to Matters of National Environmental Significance.

The Murrumbidgee River - part of the Murray Darling Basin. Photo by John Baker.

The Murrumbidgee River – part of the Murray Darling Basin. Photo by John Baker.

NSW demands deal on stalled river plan  A deal between the Commonwealth and states over how to implement the Murray-Darling Basin plan has stalled. The NSW government insists that the Commonwealth commit funding to water recovery infrastructure projects worth hundreds of million of dollars before it signs the intergovernmental agreement. The basin plan orders that 2750 billion litres of water a year be recovered for the environment by 2019.

Antarctica – a river once ran through it   Scientists have long been puzzled as to how the deep gorge now trapped beneath the ice of Lambert Graben in East Antarctica was carved and got so steep. By examining layers of sediment offshore in Prydz Bay scientists concluded that from about 250 million to 34 million years ago, the region around Lambert Glacier was relatively flat, and drained by slow-moving rivers.

New program to promote recycled water  A $10 million drive, partly funded by the federal government, aims to convince the community that introducing recycled water into drinking supplies is a palatable, cost-effective alternative to measures such as desalination. The engagement strategy will target households, students, politicians and the water industry.

Mining company given licence to dump wastewater in Edith River   The Northern Territory’s EPA has given Vista Gold the green light to pump more than 14 gigalitres of water into the Edith River. The new plan lowers environmental standards by 20 times to allow the water to be discharged.