Farmers push to stop state’s water-sharing plan
Water released to South Australia as part of the Murray-Darling Basin plan is helping keep pest carp populations across the border booming despite native fish in NSW perishing.
Under the agreement, NSW and Victoria must share water with South Australia each year, with the government having to use some of that entitlement to ensure the flow of the river is enough for it to reach the sea.
However, the NSW government has seized on a new report which has found the water being sent across the border is also keeping millions of carp alive.
Dubbed "the rabbits of the river", South Australia's Lower Lakes are brimming with 14.4 million carp, according to the annual National Estimate of Carp Biomass for Australia report.
At the same time, the drought had not only killed off the pest species in NSW but had also seriously impacted native fish stocks.
Carp are regarded as one of the world's most destructive vertebrate pest animals, having a severe impact on aquatic plants, invertebrates, water quality, native fish and the economy.
In the 45 years since the species first escaped into the Murray-Darling Basin, they had invaded almost all major aquatic habitat types in southeastern Australia, the report said.
This included areas in NSW such as the Macquarie Marshes and the Gwydir Wetlands.
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However, the report said carp density was highest in the lowland rivers and adjacent wetlands such as in the lower Murray River in South Australia, "reflective of the series of regulated, slow-flowing weir pools" and permanent adjacent wetlands, which provide "optimal habitats".
The release of the report comes ahead of a major "Can the Plan" rally on Monday with desperate farmers from around the State heading to Canberra to express their anger at the flow regimen.
The releases have also been criticised by Water Minister Melinda Pavey who calculated the volume of water released out of the Lower Lakes Barges in the past three months was more than the total drinking supplies for regional NSW in one year.
In the three months to the end of November, more than 401 gigalitres of water was released.
According to the 2015-16 NSW Water Supply and Sewerage Performance Monitoring Report, the total annual water supplied as part of 350 water supply schemes in regional NSW was 300 gigalitres.
"NSW is gripped by the worst drought on record and the Lower Lakes are still being run at a minor flood level - over 100 per cent full over the past three months," Ms Pavey said.
"This water that is being flushed out to sea is enough water to service all towns in NSW for over a year."
The state government, which has described the Murray-Darling Basin Plan as untenable, is working with Victoria to review the modelling for water flows.