Victorian farmers say urgent action needed to prevent flooding

Farmers along the Murray River are calling for more gradual pre-releases of the Hume Dam to avoid a repeat of last year’s flooding event. In October 2016, hundreds of farmers in northern Victoria and NSW’s Riverina region lost crops after massive water releases from the dam flooded properties for almost three months. With the dam’s storage recently passing 90%, Murray River Action Group Chairman Richard Sargood told Irrigation Australia water authorities must manage levels more carefully to reduce the risk of another flooding event. “Everyone is anxious. We need more air space in the Hume so that if, all of a sudden, there is a big rain event or the snow on the mountains melts at once, there is enough room to accommodate the inflows without causing a disaster down here,” Sargood said. “We keep on asking the MDBA for [more gradual] pre-releases of water now to lower the storage level but they aren’t listening. Yet, if we get close to average rain between now and October, there is no doubt the Hume will spill and we will all flood again.” Murray Darling Basin Authority River Management Director Andrew Reynolds said releasing water from the Hume Dam to mitigate against possible floods must take into consideration the need for that water at a later date. “We are keeping an eye on [the Hume’s level] but 90% is not uncommon for this time of year,” Reynolds said. “We are still very much in the mode of harvesting as much water as we can to make sure we can supply the irrigation demand we know will inevitably come.’’ The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted a dry spring in Victoria, encouraging the MDBA to hold as much water in the Hume Dam as possible to ensure there is water for downstream irrigators during summer. However, Sargood said the heightened risk of a repeat flooding in the region is being set aside in favour of irrigators elsewhere. “You can’t sell airspace but you can sell water,” he said. “It appears that we are collateral damage in the eyes of the MDBA for the supposed greater good of keeping as much water as possible in the Hume Dam for irrigators, even when it’s not safe for us.”

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