Plenty of water, but farmers don’t rely on it
IT SEEMS farmers will have to wait a bit longer before a low reliability water allocation is announced according to Goulburn Murray Water’s latest seasonal determination update.
GMW river operations planning manager Andrew Shields said once reserves for high reliability entitlements for the 2017-18 irrigation season are met, a low reliability allocation will be considered.
‘‘We are well on the way to meeting high reliability reserves for 2017-18 — both the Murray and Goulburn Systems are short about 600 Gl each,’’ Mr Shields said.
‘‘There is still water flowing into the Menindee Lakes from the Darling which will provide an extra water resource for the Murray system and the shortfall.’’
GMW make assumptions on inflow and system losses through evaporation and delivery and if losses are less than anticipated they will also go towards establishing entitlements for 2017-18.
‘‘We will be continually monitoring the situation and make announcements on a monthly basis.’’
Mr Shields said this seasons wet conditions had reduced delivery by 200 Gl compared to the same time last year.
‘‘The dry conditions over the last month have seen usage start to increase. The last time we had a low delivery year like this one was after the 2010 floods.’’
Despite this seasons wet conditions, water still remains the major concern for many northern Victoria farmers
Cohuna dairy farmer Jodie Hay said current water policy is out dated and needs to be changed.
One of her major concerns is the increasing cost of fees.
“The cost to run the system is falling on a decreasing pool of irrigators. I think fees need to be attached to water rather than land. Effectively people who invest in water without land ownership aren’t contributing their fair share to the cost of running the system,” Mrs Hay said.
Irrigating landholders have to pay an entitlement storage fee of $13.21Ml, service fee of $110, an irrigation service point fee of $320 per point and an infrastructure access fee of $2896Ml per delivery share, while a city investor only pays the entitlement storage fee.
“Landholders rely on water for their living and this puts them at a real disadvantage. The water industry changed when unbundling came in and today’s policies are way out of whack.”
Federal Member for Bendigo Lisa Chesters visited northern Victorian farmers back in October and was shocked to hear the impact water pricing and policy was having on grassroots farmers.
Ms Chesters is now calling for a review of water and water pricing.
In a speech to the House of Representatives earlier this month, she stated a robust debate in water is required.
‘‘We need to start debating and looking at the water market. I have serious concerns that many people are speculating in the water market and they trade on drought. We need to look at how the water market is working and we need to make sure we review it and it’s fair,’’ Ms Chesters said.
‘‘We see price spikes where in 12 months it goes from $300 down to $62 and back up, imagine if wages spiked like that? If the government is serious about our agriculture sector and seeing growth and jobs we need more than a window dressing policy. People want to see real action on water.’’