The weekly wash-up – April 5

The week fortnight that was in river and water news – April 5th, 2013

Cheap water sustaining irrigation: ACCC Fewer farmers are getting out of irrigation in the Murray-Darling Basin, instead those remaining are opting to trade their water entitlements. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says that whereas a few years ago farmers were selling their entitlements outright, now more irrigators are capitalising on a stronger water market.

WWF says Chinese ‘river pig’ close to extinction  China’s wild finless porpoises are now rarer than the giant panda. Their numbers in the Yangtze have more than halved in six years, according to an extensive survey. Food shortage and human disturbance such as increased shipping traffic are the major threats.

The Yangtze finless dolphin is close to extinction

The Yangtze finless dolphin is close to extinction. Photo by; Institute of Hydrobiology, Chinese Academy of Sciences

Science provides a new understanding of Great Artesian Basin  Two reports on the GAB released this week show the basin is more complex than previously thought. It can take many thousands of years for water to travel from Queensland to areas such as the mound springs in South Australia. With a  better understanding of these flow paths we can better manage these resources.

Manmade lakes to hold water for coal seam gas wells   Artificial lakes will be dug in the Pilliga district, north-western NSW, to hold millions of litres of contaminated water from coal seam gas wells. Approval has been granted despite the lack of a complete water management plan and lack of detail on what will happen to the water once it is in the lakes.

Desalination plant could sit idle for three years   Victoria’s multibillion-dollar desalination plant could sit idle for the next three years, with the Victorian government telling the owners it does not expect to buy water before mid-2016. In 2013-14, the plant will cost Victorian taxpayers $649 million even without water ordered.

Wastewater injection spurred biggest earthquake yet, says study  A new study in the journal Geology is the latest to tie a string of unusual earthquakes to the injection of wastewater deep underground. Felt more than 800 miles away, the quake—the biggest ever recorded in Oklahoma–destroyed 14 homes, buckled a federal highway and left two people injured.

“Don’t drop the ball on the basin” warns NWC   A National Water Commission report on Murray–Darling Basin Plan implementation urges renewed action and cooperation so that real benefits can start to flow to the basin and its communities. Significant government investments have already established substantial volumes of water that is available for environmental use. Now there is an urgent need for  a clear plan showing how governments will will deliver on the plan’s requirements.