• Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra
A senior water researcher at the institute said politicians don't want to talk about private dams because “they do nothing for drought-stricken communities". Shutterstock

A report from The Australia Institute rejects government claims new dams are not being built, saying at least 20 to 30 large private dams have been constructed in the Murray-Darling basin in recent years.

While information on the number of private dams and the cost of their taxpayer subsidy is limited, the report says “it appears that just two of these dams cost taxpayers nearly $30 million”.

“Over $200 million was spent on dam-related projects [in the Murray-Darling Basin] according to official data, although not all of this will have been specifically on dams,” it says,

Maryanne Slattery, senior water researcher at the institute, said politicians don’t want to talk about these dams because “they do nothing for drought-stricken communities, the health of the river or struggling farmers”.

“These dams have been built on private land and are for the exclusive use of corporate agribusiness, such as Webster Limited,” she said.

“Politicians are reluctant to talk about why millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent subsidising dams that make the problems of the Murray Darling Basin worse”.

Water Minister David Littleproud has repeatedly berated the states for not building new dams. He said recently that of the 20 dams completed since 2003, 16 were in Tasmania.

“If NSW, Queensland and Victoria don’t start building dams, their water storage capacity will fall by more than 30% by 2030,” he said. “We put $1.3 billion on the table in through the national water infrastructure development fund in 2015 and have still had to drag most states kicking and screaming to build new dams.”

The report says new public dams would require public consultation, including with stakeholders who had environmental and economic concerns.

But private dams involved “minimal public consultation and can be approved and constructed based on environmental assessments commissioned from private consultants by dam proponents”.

The report looked at three dams in detail, on properties in the Murrumbidgee Valley owned by Webster Ltd – Glenmea, Bringagee and Kooba Station. The dams were funded out of the federal government’s $4 billion water efficiency program.

The report argues such dams are not the best way to save water. It points to the department of agriculture and water resources saying new dams can save water where they replace shallower ones (which have more evaporation), or where they collect recycled irrigation water.

“However, none of the three case-study dams in this report save water in this way. They are new dams, not replacing smaller, shallower dams. Water stored behind their approximately eight metre high walls would otherwise be stored in public headwater dams around 100 metres deep.”

These dams are designed to divert normal irrigation water and “supplementary water” – not to simply recycle irrigation water, the report says. Thus “they increase both evaporation and irrigation water use”.

Supplementary water is water that is surplus to consumptive needs. It is important environmentally and to downstream users, historically making up almost all the water flowing from the Murrumbidgee into the Murray, the report says.

“With major dams now targeting this water, the Murrumbidgee could be disconnected from the Murray in most years. This has implications for all NSW Basin water users, who are already grappling with how to meet downstream obligations within the Murray’s constraints and with no water coming down the Darling.”

The report says a Canadian pension fund had just been reported as “swooping” on Webster, “with specific mention of a property with one of these new dams”.

“The new dams that Australian taxpayers helped build appear to be highly valued by international investors,” the report says.

Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Read more http://theconversation.com/dams-are-being-built-but-they-are-private-australia-institute-124807

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT COSMETIC SURGERIES

Science has made breakthroughs in numerous fields and achieved milestones that no one thought was possible before. These achievements are not limited to saving lives using advanced medical procedure...

News Company - avatar News Company

Is Brisbane Property Market A Good Place to Invest?

Investing in real estate can be a very profitable venture, but one must approach such a decision with care. As any businessperson knows, one very important factor when it comes to selecting property...

Himanshu Agarwal - avatar Himanshu Agarwal

Last summer's fish carnage sparked public outrage. Here's what has happened since

Graeme McCrabb/AAPAs this summer draws to a close, it marks just over a year since successive fish death events at Menindee in Lower Darling River made global headlines. Two independent investigatio...

Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University - avatar Lee Baumgartner, Professor of Fisheries and River Management, Institute for Land, Water, and Society, Charles Sturt University

It's now a matter of when, not if, for Australia. This is how we're preparing for a jump in coronavirus cases

ShutterstockWhile countries around the globe have been taking precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, it has now been reported in 37 countries outs...

Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity - avatar Katherine Gibney, NHMRC early career fellow, The Peter Doherty Institute for Infection and Immunity

Many Scots want independence from the United Kingdom. How might that play out in a post-Brexit world?

AAP/EPA/Robert PerryOf the many issues thrown up by Brexit, one of the most pressing is the territorial integrity of the United Kingdom. Brexit was in large measure a revolt by a certain section of ...

Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol - avatar Simon Tormey, Professor of Politics, University of Bristol

Vital Signs: a 3-point plan to reach net-zero emissions by 2050

ShutterstockEvery January Larry Fink, the head of the world’s largest funds manager, BlackRock, sends a letter to the chief executives of major public companies. This year’s letter focu...

Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW - avatar Richard Holden, Professor of Economics, UNSW

Requiring firms to only sell financial products we can use is good, but not enough

ShutterstockThe government’s financial system inquiry, on which I sat, reported five years ago. It recommended that the creators of financial products be subject to a design and distribution o...

Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne - avatar Kevin Davis, Professor of Finance, University of Melbourne

Friday essay: a real life experiment illuminates the future of books and reading

Books are always transforming. The book we hold today has arrived through a number of materials (clay, papyrus, parchment, paper, pixels) and forms (tablet, scroll, codex, kindle). The book can be a...

Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University - avatar Andy Simionato, Lecturer, RMIT University

Angus Taylor sets down 'markers' to measure success of government's technology roadmap

The government would be looking for the private sector to put in four or five times as much as it invests in research and development of particular technologies to reduce emissions, Energy Minister An...

Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra - avatar Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company