Claims that estimated water savings underpinning a controversial planned pipeline have been inflated must be investigated, Senator Simon Birmingham said today.
The claims have today been presented by the ‘Plug the Pipe’ campaign to a Senate committee inquiry into a Bill designed to prevent the Sugarloaf or ‘North-South’ pipeline from sending 75 billion litres of water a year to Melbourne.
Senator Birmingham is Deputy Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts which today in Shepparton began its inquiry into the Water Amendment (Saving the Goulburn and Murray Rivers) Bill 2008.
The leaked URS documents prepared in 2004, and presented today by Plug the Pipe, indicate that water savings under the ‘Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project’ have been seriously overestimated as a result of pilot study data being changed.
Average yearly inflows in the pilot area are believed to have been overstated by around a third, or 4000 gigalitres, to be 17,400 gigalitres, with suggestions this has never properly been audited.
“The Victorian Government has long justified its plans to rip an extra 75 billion litres of water a year from the Murray-Darling system on the basis of savings made through its irrigation renewal project,” Senator Birmingham said today.
“With serious doubt now surrounding these claimed savings, Coalition Senators join the Plug the Pipe campaign in calling for an immediate halt to the pipeline and for a full and independent audit of all Victorian Government claims in relation to these projects.
“Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s conditions of approval for the pipeline were made on the basis of Victoria’s projected water savings, and doubts about the veracity of these figures should be of enormous concern to him.
“We strongly urge Minister Garrett to intervene, using powers available to him under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act (EPBC Act).
“Doubts surrounding claimed irrigation water savings in Victoria only further weaken the case for building the North-South pipeline.
“The Brumby Victorian Government simply cannot be allowed to drain billions of litres more water from the already stressed Murray-Darling system and must pursue alternatives acceptable both to irrigators and the environment.”

Further details of the inquiry by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment, Communications and the Arts, including submissions, hearing dates and agendas, can be found at