RIVERINA farmers are crying out for water.
They are desperate, frustrated and fed up with the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
More than 1000 of them took to the streets of central Albury on Tuesday to demonstrate their plight.
Holding placards and shouting at politicians to "Pause the Plan" and have their voices heard about the desperate need for water across the state.
Despite the rally in QEII Square turning into a political fight against member for Farrer Sussan Ley, who copped a barrage of criticism, the heart on the sleeves of each and every farmer there was clear to see.
Southern Riverina Irrigators chairman Chris Brooks, who lead the gathering, had a strong message for both sides of politics.
"You haven't been listening, and we're up for the fight," he said.
"We want our water back and we want all parties to know we are going to fight for it."
You call it the Murray Darling Basin Plan and it needs to be paused, reviewed and overhauled.Carly Marriott
Mr Brooks said their frustration had boiled over following a summer in which water authorities tried to push huge quantities from dams east of Albury down the Murray River to South Australia.
"To the point where it was running over the river's banks and flooding forests, at the same time, the region's farmers had a zero allocation for food and fibre production, and as a consequence have suffered immense economic pain that has flowed on to the local communities," he said.
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But it was a passionate letter which his daughter Carly Marriott read out that pulled on the heartstrings of every farming family standing in front of her.
"I want to make it very clear for those of you who make and enforce water policy, there are farmers and then there are farmers," she said.
"Family farms come with a history of the environment, an appreciation for the seasons and a level of adaptability and ingenuity that ensures future generations can farm sustainably.
"I work alongside my husband, my parents and my children.
"It is worth noting that we are not morons and we know how to manage risk.
"Our irrigation infrastructure and cropping equipment ensures we get the most crop for drop as humanly possible.
"We can cop a few blows from mother nature, it's part of our business. However we cannot tolerate the coward's punch being served up by you.
"You call it the Murray Darling Basin Plan and it needs to be paused, reviewed and overhauled.
"Unless of course you want to sit down every morning to eat your imported cereal soaking in your imported milk. Eat up kids."
FARMERS FED UP
Wakool wool broker David Landini told The Border Mail his livelihood will "dry up and blow away" with the farmers if the the Murray Darling Basin Plan continues in its current form.
"We made the trip to Albury to have our say and make our voices heard," he said.
"If it continues there is a real possibility the farmers will dry up and blow away and if they do so will I.
"The basin plan is an absolute disaster, a financial and economic disaster.
"It is taking away our livelihoods. It has taken away the livelihood of farmers and also the people who are employed in associated industries such as myself.
"The plan is emptying the country out of people.
"Politicians are not considering our needs at all, they are not considering facts and figures, they are not considering economic and financial reality and we are here to try and get the message to them that we have had enough.
"We have well and truly had enough - we have to stop this disaster.
"Otherwise we will just dry up and blow away."
Mr Landini sells wool at the Melbourne Wool Sales and said all his clients are struggling irrigation farmers.
"They are all irrigation farmers who can carry 10 times the quantity of livestock with irrigation," he said.
"But if you take that water away their quantity goes down by 10.
"This directly impacts me as my work decreases by that same amount as my work relies entirely on farmers."
Mr Landini said if there was once again no water allocation he would not survive financially and neither would a lot of farmers.
"I hate to say it but financially you can't survive that," he said.
There isn't much John Lolicato hasn't done in the name of water.
He has been a key advocate for the Pause the Plan campaign for years and is the chairman of the Wakool River Association in his hometown.
And he said through the use of people power they can "take the show over again".
"We hope this sends a very clear message to government and to others our communities can't sustain any more of this taking of the commodity that creates wealth in our communities - water," he said.
"I am a third generation farmer and our area is one of the worst hit.
"And if we keep going the way we are with this crazy notion of putting all the water out to sea then you are going to completely bugger up the bit of agriculture we have in Australia."
Mr Lolicato said if the basin plan continues as it is for the next five years there won't be any farmers left.
"We can't afford to suck it up and deal with it anymore," he said.
"2024 is the next deadline and we can't afford to allow our communities to be any more decimated then what we are now.
"While we are all keen environmentalists at the best of times, what's happening now is our environment is being impacted, the social and economic parts of our community are just being devastated.
There has been six years of the basin plan and farmers have been involved in the process the whole way.
"We have attended thousands of meetings, written thousands and thousands of submissions, have hundreds of delegations go to ministers and any other bureaucrats we come across and at the end of the day it has fallen on deaf ears," Mr Landini said.
The Murray Darling Basin Plan isn't just facing a problem with farmers and water.
In December and January they had a problem with mass fish deaths in in the lower Darling River near Menindee.
And on Wednesday the independent panel that investigated the causes of the deaths called for the implementation of the plan to be accelerated in order to reduce the risk of similar events in the future.
In its final report the panel, which included La Trobe Albury-Wodonga professor Nick Bond, made 27 recommendations for policy makers and water managers to consider.
But what does this mean for water and our farmers?
Professor Bond believes the benefit of the basin plan is it's "adaptive" and there is room for change.
"The plan is a huge generation shift in water management," he said.
"There is always going to be disagreement about how we share the water between industries but I think what is good about the plan is that is has space to be evaluated through its implementation and when it is completely rolled out.
"The next review in 2024 includes water resource plans which are going to be really important."
The panel believes it is vital for these recommendations to be implemented in order to protect and restore native fish populations in the Murray-Darling Basin.
And the Murray Darling Basin Authority agrees with them.
MDBA chief executive Phillip Glyde said MDBA research and consultation back in 2016 highlighted the "critical need to protect flows in the north of the basin and has led to a significant work program."
"I welcome the panel's call to accelerate that work," he said.
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