The proposed Murray Darling Basin Plan released today fails the environment and the hopes of millions of Australians who want to see our country's mightiest river system restored to health, according to the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
“This plan fails to meet the most important target – to deliver enough water to the environment to ensure a healthy long-term future for the Murray Darling”, said Pepe Clarke, NCC Chief Executive Officer.
“Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that at least 4,000 gigalitres [GL] of water needs to be returned to the river to ensure survival of wetlands, fish habitat and water bird populations.
The proposed Basin Plan sets a target of 2,750 GL, well short of the figure required for the health of the river system.
“The proposed plan will not deliver the environmental flows required to withstand the impacts of drought, climate change and the pressure of irrigation,” he said.
“The environmental goals of the plan have been unacceptably compromised, under pressure from irrigators and upstream state governments.
“Under the proposed plan, a number of internationally significant wetlands will become so degraded, Australia would be in breach of its international obligations.
”This plan comprehensively fails to meet the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s own ecological targets.
For example, the plan fails to meet four out of five ecological targets for the internationally listed Narran Lakes in northern NSW, leaving unique plant communities associated with the lakes in permanent decline and threatening waterbird breeding events.
"We live on the driest inhabited continent on earth. We can and must learn to use irrigation water smarter, to improve on-farm efficiency and deliver improved environmental outcomes.
"Recent research by the NSW Government found that 72 per cent of irrigators surveyed agreed that a lot more can be done to improve the efficiency of water use on most farms. 
"More than two thirds of irrigated land in New South Wales is irrigated using flooding or open furrows , resulting in massive volumes of water being lost through evaporation.
“Implementing the plan in its current form will represent a wasted opportunity to restore our country’s most iconic and important river system.
“Federal Environment Minister Tony Burke must exercise leadership to deliver a plan that will ensure the environmental sustainability of the Murray Darling Basin,” Mr Clarke said.
 NSW Office of Water (December 2011) Monitoring economic and social changes in NSW water sharing plan areas. Source: www.water.nsw.gov.au/ArticleDocuments/34/wsp_irrigators_survey_2010_report.pdf.aspx. (p.65)
 Ibid. p.59.