Op-Ed: An epic victory in the battle for free-flowing rivers
Trees are being cut down to protect the free-flowing rivers which have been a source of water for many residents, but environmentalists point to a lack of legal protection.
If it looks as if water management is being redrawn, that’s because it is.
The fight between water managers and environmentalists to protect the quality of our rivers is set to intensify as we enter a new year.
Tens of millions of people across the country are being asked to make radical changes to their water use and more people are demanding greater protection for rivers and streams.
Water managers and environmentalists clash over what should be done to protect our rivers. Photo / Supplied
A review of how we deal with water has reached a crossroads. The federal government’s recent announcement to reduce the amount of water we get for free is a step forward, but it is now coming into a more complex battle.
For decades, we have had something of a free-for-all when it comes to water management.
The first few decades of the 20th century saw water being given to farmers to grow crops as they waited for state governments to decide how much they should divert from our rivers and where.
Some of them went to the point where they were flooding our rivers.
Then in the 1980s, when the governments started asking farmers to reduce their water extraction, some farmers were happy to do so for “future generations’ sake.
By the late 1990s, a “Water for Tomorrow” campaign was launched.
By 2000, some of the states had stopped having water for free, but there was no one in a position to manage the water for free.
The federal government took over this role in 2005.
In 2009, the federal government introduced more protections for water – as well as for land and other protected species.
At the same time, the states have had no control over water.
The rivers have been open for business.
It has been a free-for-all ever since.
Since the federal government took over water management, the battle has intensified.
Water managers are now asking for more protection.
The state governments are resisting.
There are fears that the federal government is planning to take away more streams and rivers in an effort to