Australia: Satellite imagery revealed how much water is being stolen from the Murray-Darling Basin by floodplain harvesting. South Australian irrigators have long complained about the practice, which upstream water authorities have struggled to stop because it requires monitoring over vast distances. A Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) spokeswoman said in an interview, “Diversions such as floodplain harvesting are difficult to measure”.
South Australian (SA) irrigators and environmentalists throughout the basin considered the harvesting to be theft, made possible when Queensland and NSW farmers bulldoze channels that divert water off to dams or spill out into paddocks. “There is a well established principle that if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it,” she added.
SA Water Minister Paul Caica welcomed the monitoring of the floodplain harvesting, which he said would become significant when the proposed diversion limits for the basin were put in place. “It is important to utilise the most appropriate technology to measure extractions and to ensure compliance,” he added.
The MDBA spokeswoman further stated that the system worked by comparing geographical information about sites with satellite images of water flow diverted from the rivers.