Research released by The Australia Institute today contradicts claims by federal and state government ministers that new dams are not being built in Australia.
The report, Dam shame: The hidden new dams in Australia, shows that 20 to 30 large new dams have been recently constructed, funded at least in part by the taxpayer.
At least ten of these new dams are visible on the Hay-Griffith road in the Murrumbidgee Valley in NSW.
Just two of the new dams in the Murrumbidgee received nearly $30 million, while dam-related projects in the wider Murray Darling have received over $200 million in taxpayer funding.
“The reason politicians won’t talk about these dams is that they do nothing for drought-stricken communities, the health of the river or struggling farmers,” said Maryanne Slattery, Senior Water Researcher at The Australia Institute.
“These dams have been built on private land and are for the exclusive use of corporate agribusiness, such as Webster Limited.
“Politicians are reluctant to talk about why millions of taxpayer dollars have been spent subsidising dams that make the problems of the Murray Darling Basin worse.
“The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources claims these dams save water, if they are used for recycled water or if they are replacing a shallower dam with high evaporation.
“Our research shows that this rarely happens. The dams examined in our report divert water that would otherwise flow downstream to sensitive environmental areas and assisting downstream users.
“These dams are up to 8 meters deep, but they don’t replace shallower ones. Most of the water they divert would otherwise be either in rivers or held in public headwater dams around 100 meters deep.
“There is no doubt that taxpayers have funded new dams that will help the profits of large businesses, but make the problems of the Murray Darling Basin worse.
“These dams have the potential to stop the Murrumbidgee flowing into the Murray in drier years, compounding the problems that Murray water users are experiencing.
“Just last week a Canadian pension fund paid a 50% premium for a stake in properties with new taxpayer-funded dams.
“The new dams that Australian taxpayers helped build appear to be highly valued by international investors.
“If any other industry wasted taxpayer money on environmentally and socially damaging projects like this, there would be a national outcry.
“It’s time for a federal royal commission into the mismanagement of the Murray Darling Basin.”