The Australian Greens say the Federal Government's legal advice shows the Water Act has always taken into account the social and economic benefits and costs of water reform, according to Senator Sarah Hanson-Young.
Senator Hanson-Young, Greens spokesperson on the Murray-Darling Basin, says that without putting the river on a sustainable environmental footing, there will be no security for basin communities or Australia's food production.
"The minister must rule out any amendments to the Water Act which would water down the requirement for thorough and effective reform that through necessary extraction reductions will save the river system,'' Senator Hanson-Young said.
"The government's new inquiry must be looking into the costs of a failure to act, by doing nothing or doing too little to reform water use in the Basin.
"What will be the costs to communities, what will be the cost to food production if we don't act to tackle water over-allocation and put the water back that the river needs to survive?
"The Federal Government may be doing all it can to distance itself from water reform, with the Minister making clear that it's not his plan. But the Murray-Darling, its environment, and everyone who depends on it for their future, deserves better than this.
"We have to recognise in this process that based on the best available science, a minimum of 4000GL is needed to give us a chance of saving the river - if we want to guarantee a living river system, we know that we need up to 7600GL.
"The Government has money on the table, what we now need is a community engagement process and a commitment from government to work with those communities to transition to a future with less water - giving communities ownership in the role they will play in reform is vital.
"We have to turn around the decades of water over-allocation in the Basin that has got us to this point. Most people acknowledge that we have to change the way we do things - now we have to show the will and the courage to make those changes.''