A TURNING POINT
A directive from NSW Water Minister Niall Blair to get clarity around the extent of water losses in the Murray system has been described as ‘‘a turning point’’ for the irrigation sector.
It was instigated following representations by Murray Irrigation Ltd.
MIL chairman Phil Snowden, in acknowledging the positive move, said yesterday: ‘‘To Niall Blair’s considerable credit he is the first minister to look beyond policy and delve into practicality’’.
‘‘He is formally recognising that water has both a monetary and social value and his intervention is a turning point for our sector,’’ Mr Snowden said.
At MIL’s recent annual meeting Mr Snowden estimated there had been ‘‘an operating loss in excess of 200,000 megs in the last three months’’ which was worth ‘‘about $80 million in today’s water market, never mind the regional value and hardship this waste is causing’’.
In a letter to Mr Snowden this week, Mr Blair said that following representation from MIL he had ‘‘requested the Department of Industry – Water provide me with all facts around losses in the River Murray’’.
‘‘I have asked that this include the numbers of the losses, where these rules are attributed to and how we can better attribute these losses now and into the future.
‘‘Upon receiving this urgent advice I will commence discussions with other jurisdictions on how these losses can be better shared to reflect the causes.
‘‘I understand the frustrations of your organisation and your members and as I have said as recently as August when the agreement to use the Mulwala Canal was announced between Murray Irrigation Limited and WaterNSW, it is critical that the system is run as efficiently as possible.’’
Mr Snowden said for almost a year MIL had been encouraging government to apply the rigours of irrigated agriculture management to the management of operational and environmental water.
‘‘Mr Blair has now provided a very strong recognition of that simple but critical approach.
‘‘We entered into a canal agreement to get efficiency into the river system . . . Mr Blair and the Federal Minister (David Littleproud) hailed the agreement at the time and this undertaking is an extension of that objective.
‘‘Every megalitre of water lost is a megalitre of water denied every farmer who has invested in irrigated agriculture — the Minister has recognised this and should be congratulated,’’ Mr Snowden said.
Concern with water losses was an issue raised by Mr Snowden at the recent MIL annual meeting.
At that meeting he told shareholders there was ‘‘considerable waste in the delivery of water in the river system’’ and that ‘‘the changed characteristics of water entitlements owned by the government in how they are being used and delivered is having a material impact on our allocations’’.
He said MIL would ‘‘work with river operators and environmental water holders to maximise the efficiency of the entire Murray system’’.
‘‘We want to lead by example in offering solutions. We cannot expect efficiencies in the system if we don’t help to identify them where we can,’’ he said in his annual report.