Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Allocation questioned

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Menindee Lakes last week filled to maximum capacity for the first time since 2012, and the dams upstream are full to spilling yet the drought in general security allocation­s persists.

It has lead NSW Irrigators Council CEO Claire Miller to ask: ‘‘If Menindee is full, then why aren’t allocation­s?’’.

‘‘It’s refreshing to see water finally fill the Menindee Lakes after so many years of drought and hardship for water users and communitie­s across New South Wales,’’ she said.

‘‘Irrigators should also be celebratin­g full allocation­s, yet Murray general security allocation­s are languishin­g on 30 per cent and Murrumbidg­ee not much better on 52 per cent.

‘‘This unpreceden­ted situation highlights the need for the Basin Ministeria­l Council and New South Wales Government to comprehens­ively review river operations rules and allocation policies.

‘‘It is absurd, for example, that releases from the dams can put a technical end to unregulate­d flows allowing supplement­ary and general security access, even as the rivers run even higher.

‘‘It also highlights how cumulative policy decisions by officials behind closed doors are eroding the reliabilit­y of entitlemen­ts. When the environmen­t owns 481GL, almost 30 per cent, of Murray general security entitlemen­t, it is missing out as much as irrigators are.

‘‘Officials do not have the excuse of climate change or drought for low allocation­s in a year of plenty.

‘‘Neither can floodplain harvesting be blamed when Menindee has filled and the Darling River continues to run strongly despite unregulate­d floodplain harvesting back in March.’’

Ms Miller said the current situation puts claims abolishing floodplain harvesting would improve water availabili­ty in the NSW Murray in doubt, and supports Department­al analysis in its submission to the Floodplain Harvesting Parliament­ary Inquiry, writing “even completely removing floodplain harvesting from the northern Basin is not likely to improve average annual water availabili­ty in the New South Wales Murray by more than one per cent’’.

‘‘There is clearly a serious problem here, but it is not in the northern basin,” Ms Miller said.

‘‘The focus must be on what can be done to improve water security for southern irrigators, and that starts with the MDBA and the New South Wales Government cracking open their respective allocation and rules blackboxes.”

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