Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for the Environment
Launch of 'Run the River'
Speech: Questacon, ACT
24 March 2014
Thanks so much Will, Al is a pretty tough act to follow its nice to be able to stand here and have all the water on planet earth in one hand; it's great to be able to accomplish that feat, so thanks for leaving the water up here for me to play with. Boys and Girls welcome, thanks so much for coming today and obviously for your participation in the launch of this app. It's a wonderful thing that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority is doing together with Questacon to provide some facility and capacity for kids from throughout Australia and throughout the world to have a better understanding of how our river systems work and how are waterways work. And if you boil it all down as to what it is the river app in particular is looking at, is how do we share the water that we have and that is available.
We have to share it for a whole range of uses and it's not really as straight forward as you think. When you want to have a carton of milk a lot of water goes in just making that carton of milk. There's of course the water that the cows drink, there is the water that's required for pasture and grass and so on that the cows eat, there's water that's required when cows are milked in terms of keeping things clean. There's water that's required for the packaging and processing of milk. There's water at ever single stage of that, and lots and lots of water goes in to giving you just one litre of milk.
The same story can be had whether you are getting a packet of rice of the shelf, or if mum are dad are having a bottle of wine, whether you are wearing some cotton clothing, all of those things that we use in every day of our lives all require water, and in the Murray-Darling Basin that water is taken out of different rivers in the system and put on the pasture and used on farms and grow in a way utilised in a way that allows us to get the different things we need and have in our shops in our daily lives that we just all take for granted in whatever it is we are doing.
And I happen to live down in Adelaide, right at the bottom of the Murray-Darling system, and there is a big pipleline that comes out of the River Murray near a town called Mannum and it pipes water into the reservoirs around Adelaide. So when I turn the taps on at home I'm relying on their being water left in the River Murray near Adelaide for me to be able to drink and bathe and water my garden and do all of those things that I take for granted at home. And that's the challenge for managing the river that if too many people up stream use too much water, there's not enough left for the million odd people living in my home city of Adelaide to be able to drink, live and sustain ourselves down there.
So everybody needs to be able to get their fair share and it needs to be of a quality that when we're taking it out of the bottom of the system we can actually still drink it, we can actually still use it. So you don't only just need to make sure that there's some there, but you need to also make sure it can be managed in a way that it's of a quality that's good enough to be used throughout the entire river system.
And that's why it's really so important the work that the Murray-Darling Basin Authority does to try and get that balance right, to work with all the different states, to work with all of the different towns and communities throughout the river to make sure we can still produce our milk, grow our rice, grow our grapes, grow our oranges, and have the water that we need to be able to drink live. And it's really important that everybody understands that notion of sharing, that sharing of the resource so that we still have healthy waterways, healthy as measured not just by science and the tests that we might do but by observations around the quality of life within those waterways.
It's one of those fascinating things walking around the tables here to see the two different examples of water. Water taken from a somewhat polluted urban runoff setting and the water taken from a cleaner river setting. The water may look dirtier, but that water is actually the cleaner water because that's where there are more animals living, more species there and a lot more activity. It's not really dirty it's just when you first look at because of all the activity, it looks like it's dirtier. The truth is the actual water itself is a lot cleaner, a lot better, and a lot more fit for the human uses that we want to apply for.
So please tell your friends, tell your classmates, make sure they use the app. My congratulations to the MDBA, the software developers and thanks to Questacon and everybody who has helped put this together, and have a great day at Questacon. I wish I could stay here rather than go back to Parliament.