Buffalo expansion would create more water

By Geoff Adams

An expanded Lake Buffalo reservoir would provide more water for some Murray River irrigators, a historic report found in 2009.

Modelling conducted by the Victorian Government found a 1000 Gl Buffalo dam could supply an extra 7 Gl/year to Victorian Murray irrigators under some scenarios.

However, the same report found the expansion would result in less water for South Australia in most scenarios.

The Victorian National Party has been advocating to increase the capacity of the 23 Gl dam near Myrtleford on the Buffalo River, but the Victorian Government has been opposed to new dams.

About 10 years ago, when the state was facing diminishing water reserves in both the rural and Melbourne catchments, the Bracks Labor Government also argued against any new dams.

“New dams do not create new water. They take water from rivers and downstream irrigators,’’ was the view still repeated today by the Andrews Government.

The 2009 report also pointed out that the massive costs for a new dam would have to be funded, and the most efficient ones had already been built.

The report also raised the issue of environmental impact of new or expanded reservoirs.

The idea of an expanded Buffalo reservoir has also been supported by the Federal Government.

Federal Nationals leader Michael McCormack urged the government to consider an investigation into an enlargement of the dam, which could provide more water for downstream communities, including the Goulburn-Broken valley.

Mr McCormack has offered to help pay for a business case to see if the figures stacked up.

He stopped short of promising to pay for the dam, which could be in the realm of a billion dollars.

The 2009 report, developed during a water strategy discussion called the Northern Region Sustainable Water Strategy — colloquially called The Northern SWIS — looked at modelling for a 1000 Gl expanded storage under three main scenarios.

Based on compliance with the Murray-Darling Basin cap, if the extra storage capacity was used to supplement supply for entitlement holders on the Murray system there would be an increase of up to 7 Gl/year giving improved reliability for Murray high-reliability water shares, a slight increase in water availability for NSW water users of up to 24 Gl/year, and a slight decrease in water availability for South Australia under most scenarios.

If there was no compliance with the cap, Victorian Murray water users could gain up to 55 Gl/year under all scenarios and NSW irrigators could gain more water.

Although the Victorian Government at the time of the report canned the idea of expanding Lake Buffalo, it had also dismissed the idea of taking water from northern Victoria to use in Melbourne. A few years later the government approved the Foodbowl Modernisation Project which involved creating access to Goulburn River water.

The proposed expansion of Lake Buffalo will be the focus of community forums hosted by State Member for Ovens Valley Tim McCurdy.

Mr McCurdy said the information sessions would detail the state opposition’s call to refer the expansion of Lake Buffalo to the National Water Grid Authority.

Public forums will be held at:

¦ Cobram: Presto Pasta and Pizza, 4 Mookarii St on Monday, January 20 at 7.30 pm.

¦ Yarrawonga: Burkes Hotel, 96 Belmore St on Tuesday, January 21 at 7.30 pm.

¦ Wangaratta: Charlie’s Restaurant & Bar, 76A Reid St on Wednesday, January 22 at 7.30 pm.

¦ Moyhu: Moyhu Soldiers Memorial Hall, 24 Bartley St on Monday, January 27 at 7.30 pm.

¦ Whitfield: Mountain View Hotel, 4 King Valley Rd on Tuesday, January 28 at 7.30 pm.