It’s not the fruit trees, it’s the dairy.
And today’s water cuts will only return extraction to 1995 levels. How have we become so irrationally water-dependent at the expense of biodiversity in the Murray?
Between 1995 and 2000, there was a huge expansion in water extraction in the basin starting at a baseline of 9,300 billion litres and rising to 12,000 billion litres. The current figure is a little higher at 13,700 billion. Some 1,700 of that 2,700 billion litre increase was for the dairy industry, and about 700 billion extra for cotton with rice and grapes picking up a couple of hundred billion each. By 2000/1 the dairy industry was using about 9 times more water than fruit and vegetables combined.
Let me repeat. The dairy industry got a 1,700 billion litre increase, bringing its total water use to 4,200 billion litres, while the fruit industry got a 67 billion litre increase to bring its total to just 310 billion litres.