Water infrastructure projects in the Nyah-Vinifera region led by state and federal governments have caused neighbouring forests and riverbanks to remain tinder dry.
Despite being the largest river system in Australia, the Murray-Darling Basin is dealing with drought and prospects of extinction for various flora and fauna in the district. Significant wetlands such as the Coorong and Menindee Lakes are at risk of collapse, threatening migratory birds that travel from Siberia and Alaska.
The River Country Campaign was formed in 2000, starting out as a solidarity group supporting the Watti Watti Nation to make the Nyah-Vinifera national park more secure. 20 years later the campaign is calling for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan to be reviewed to restore health to the Murray-Darling.
River Country Coordinator Megan Williams describes how Indigenous knowledge is vital in properly rehabilitating the water management system.
“We are supportive of Indigenous Nations to have sovereign rights to country and in being able to utilise their knowledge to apply them in water management…this is not currently playing a huge role in management.”
In March this year, the first flush of water down the lower Darling in 3 years was celebrated, however people are still tense amidst the COVID-19 health crisis.
Towns in far west NSW have relied on drinking water to be trucked in by volunteers with residents having limited access to safe quality water to meet their needs. This situation was not going to be viable during the pandemic, as transport and travel becomes more restricted.
“We’ve been adapting to do what we can with government guidelines,” Williams said of the COVID-19 restrictions.
“Engaging with people online and hosting online events continues to get information out there and work with local communities to put in submissions.”
Wilcannia, a town in north-western NSW, recently had their water supply switched back to their local weir pool after being connected to groundwater. This change ensures residents have ease of access to safe drinking water.
Despite the obvious value of these flows, they are still not being protected. River Country is calling upon NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey to re-instate the embargo on the Barwon Darling catchment.
The next online event hosted by River Country Campaign is on July 20th and can be accessed here: https://www.facebook.com/events/638713746732316/
The River Country appeal page is available for donations here: https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/river_country_donate
The petition to Revive the Rivers can be signed here: https://www.melbournefoe.org.au/buybacks