Education key for cotton industry in tackling criticism

Australian cotton industry: education key to water management debate


Cotton
EDUCATION: Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay insists education is key for the cotton industry in tackling current criticism.

EDUCATION: Cotton Australia CEO Adam Kay insists education is key for the cotton industry in tackling current criticism.

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Cotton growers not to blame for recent fish deaths in Barwon-Darling river system.

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The Australian cotton industry has once again found itself in the cross-hairs of public debate around water management in the Murray-Darling Basin, and it has got to stop.

The recent fish deaths in the Barwon-Darling river system at Menindee was a devastating sight; however, it is wrong to blame cotton growers for this incident.

NSW is in the grips of a long and devastating drought, which is impacting all agricultural sectors, including the cotton industry where this season’s crop is forecast to be at least half of last season’s. The severity of the drought was highlighted in the Bureau of Meteorology’s latest climate statement which showed NSW has had its sixth driest year on record while the Murray-Darling Basin had its seventh driest year on record.

SEE ALSO: Cotton industry had a 'gutful' of being blamed

Cotton Australia is very proud of our industry and hard-working growers; but as an industry we are growing very tired of being the scapegoat for all the problems being brought on by this crippling drought.

DRY TIMES: The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest climate statement shows NSW has had its sixth driest year on record. Image: Supplied

DRY TIMES: The Bureau of Meteorology’s latest climate statement shows NSW has had its sixth driest year on record. Image: Supplied

It’s disappointing to see ill-informed politicians such as Sarah Hanson-Young using the fish deaths for political point scoring and attacking our industry without recognition of the facts.

About two months ago, 1900 gigalitres of water was in the Menindee Lakes before the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) took the deliberate decision to accelerate releases from Menindee to meet downstream requirements and reduce overall evaporation losses from the lakes. Since July 1, 2017, irrigators have extracted just 16 gigalitres out of the Barwon-Darling - an amount that would have evaporated out of the Menindee Lakes in just 16 days.

Coupled with the extensive drought and the simple fact there has been little-to-no rain, the accelerated release of water from the lakes may have exacerbated the conditions leading to these fish deaths, and in hindsight may prove to be a poor decision by the MDBA.

The management of releases from Menindee over the past 18 months should be reviewed, with particular emphasis on whether a different release pattern would have made a material difference, or whether, as claimed by the MDBA, any water retained due to decreased releases would have evaporated anyway and would have been unavailable to help manage or avoid this situation.

This is an important issue for our industry to have a voice on. I strongly encourage all involved to have their voice heard and defend our industry. As a united front, we need to push back against the mistruths being spread by educating our critics so we can stop being the punching bag of Australian agriculture.

READ MORE: Fish kill inquiries a wildcard for all Murray Darling irrigators

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