The Darling River – up the creek without a political paddle

The Darling River could once again be the poor sibling of the Murray-Darling family, Richard Kingsford writes on Pearls and Irritations.

Compared to the Murray, the Darling River has less water, less sophisticated modelling and less research and, as a consequence, less well developed evidence based policy. The Darling Rivers and its tributaries like the Macquarie and Gwydir Rivers, were developed after about the nineteen seventies. Widespread large privately owned storages allowed the irrigation community to divert river water into their dams, essentially having the same effect on the river as large government-built dams on the rivers. Previously, I have described widespread degradation across the Murray-Darling Basin and the current implementation challenges for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The press release from the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in the last week argues that the cut to the Darling River’s environmental flows was based ‘on the best available science and evidence’, with modelling and data that ‘stood up to the scrutiny of independent peer review’. Peer review can be convenient. In science and engineering, it describes when an editor of a peer-reviewed journal sends submitted work to independent anonymous reviewers. This anonymity provides frank and fearless advice to the editor on the quality of the work. Governments often have a different definition. They decide where to send the work for review and they pay for it. There is a truism in the world of environmental consultancy – you don’t pay someone to sink your view of the world. There is little independence and, apart from some tinkering, overall conclusions rarely change. Whichever way you look at it, it is a poor imitation of peer review.

Read the full article at John Menadue - Pearls and Irritations:

Martyn Pearce