Andrew McConville, Chief of the Murray Darling Basin Authority, on the 10th anniversary

As parts of Australia are hit by their seventh flood in a year, one of the country’s top water chiefs has warned another drought is on the way.

On the 10th anniversary of the Murray Darling Basin Plan, Chief Executive Andrew McConville said the plan – introduced in response to the “Millennium Drought” – would ensure water is reserved for critical needs during future droughts.

Daily inflows this month were seven times the long-term average due to flooding in NSW, Victoria and South Australia.

But he warned that climate change could cause rivers to lose 30 percent of their water.

“There are two certainties. One is climate change – we know the climate is changing,” he told the National Press Club in an address.

“The CSIRO has provided several plausible scenarios that describe climate change on our rivers and groundwater systems. In the most likely scenario, precipitation would decrease by 10 percent by 2050 with the historical climate of the basin.

Rivers could decrease by 30 percent. That’s 30 percent less water in our rivers. Science tells us that we face an uncertain future and that coping with more extreme events will be essential.

None of us can do the things we have always done in the same way and expect the same results.”

He said the other certainty is that the authorities “have to intervene Introduce First Nations people to water management in a real and meaningful way.”

Mr McConville – who was head of oil and gas lobby APPEA until last year – said he knew the agency had “very, very clearly” more work to do.

“We’re working hard on climate change related to the basin plan and a whole bunch of other things and I think it’s important that we take people with us on this journey,” he said.

“That’s what I’ve made a career out of, and that’s what I’m concentrating on.”

Earlier, on the plan’s 10th anniversary, Water Minister Tanya Plibersek said it remained “the most important piece of water policy” in Australian history.

“The basin plan was born of desperation, not choice, when we faced this continent at its wildest and most unforgiving,” she wrote in an opinion piece.

“Much has changed in the last 10 years… But we know that as long as we live on this land, dry years will inevitably follow wet years, which is why the Basin Plan continues to guide our management of Australia’s most important natural resource.”

“While the plan can be frustrating, if it weren’t for it, life would be a lot worse.”

In this year’s election, Labor pledged to fully implement the plan – a commitment now being reiterated by all states and territories.

“If we can all communicate … then I know we can implement this plan while supporting everyone who depends on the river system for their lives and livelihoods,” she said.

Originally published as a dire warning to weather-beaten Aussies from the head of the Murray Darling Basin Authority

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