• Apr, 2024

    CSIRO report spells out huge risk to Roper River from industry expansion

    Media Release

    18 April 2024

    Water extraction from one of Australia’s last remaining free-flowing rivers – the Roper River, could see a 66,000-fold increase from a massive expansion of irrigated agriculture, according to a new CSIRO report.

    The Roper River Water Resource Assessment outlines possible scenarios of 660 billion litres of surface water a year for crops such as cotton, and the requirement of 40,000ha of land cleared across the catchment.

    The technical reports examine the possibility of large-scale floodplain harvesting across the Roper Catchment, as well as the cumulative impacts of up to five in-stream dams, including a hydroelectric dam on the Wilton River near Ngukurr.

    “This report highlights the huge scale of development and the impacts on communities, people and ecosystems that could occur if the Roper River is not protected,” said Pew’s NT Manager Mitch Hart.

    The report highlights the importance of community values, stating that the ‘nature and scale of future development of irrigation would depend heavily upon community and government values and acceptance of potential impacts to water‑dependent ecosystems.’

    “Thousands of Territorians have already stood up in support of protection for the Roper – including demands that no more water be taken from the river, and no new dams be built.”

    “First Nations people along the river have demanded no more water be taken, and for communities to be properly consulted on how their Country and the Roper is protected.”

    “Communities want our rivers kept healthy and it’s crucial that the Government now acts to protect the Roper River before it is too late.

    “This report talks to the possibility of groundwater extraction from the river system of up to 125 GL, which could have devastating impacts on the future health of the river system. To put this in perspective, this is three times Darwin’s annual drinking water supply.”

    The Roper River catchment is under increasing pressure from a string of water allocations made by the NT Government in the past six months. The recently released Georgina Wiso Water Allocation Plan and Surface Water Take – Wet Season Flows Policy, plus the draft Mataranka Tindall Water Allocation Plan allow for more than 280 billion litres to be taken from the Roper River catchment each year.

    “Ultimately, this report points to the urgent need for the Roper to have long-term protections in place, avoiding a Murray-Darling style disaster before it’s too late. It’s imperative that governments listen to the voice of communities – particularly First Nations – when it comes to protecting the Roper,” said Mr Hart.

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