Australia to review Murray-Darling water distribution

Authorities considering reversing a water plan that protects supplies for communities and wildlife in southeast.

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    Australia's government is reviewing the way water is distributed in the southeast of the country.

    Two rivers - the Murray and Darling - provide much of the water supply for the hundreds of thousands of Australians.

    Most of them live in the city of Adelaide and rural towns in the outback.

    Australia's outback is usually dusty and dry. However, the Meindee Lakes are an exception: they have more water in them than they have had in years, following an unusually wet few months.

    This is good news for the tourist operations such as Lady River Tours of Robert Gregory.

    "The lakes look great and it's really good for the town," says Gregory, who runs boat tours for bird watchers.

    "Tourists come in and spend money, which keeps the economy buzzing."

    A plan was introduced five years ago to stop farmers upstream from taking too much water to protect communities and wildlife downstream. Now, a U-turn in policy is being considered.

    Environmentalists say communities upstream take so much water that it damages wetland environments downstream. It also reduces the amount of water that downstream towns like Broken Hill and cities, particularly Adelaide, rely on.

    "Irrigation is an industry has a huge role to play in terms of keeping the communities vibrant. So how much can you continue to take?" Tony Thompson, a cotton farmer, told Al Jazeera.

    Barnaby Joyce, Australia's agriculture and water minister, has backed a review calling for a reduction in the plan’s targets. He has also promised to look at how water-allocation decisions affect rural communities.

    But downstream - at the other end of the river - local politicians and environmentalists want the current plan to be more ambitious, for rivers to flow more in line with their original courses.

    Clearly, Australia's water wars have some way to run.


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