Wa­ter trade push

Shepparton News - Country News - - FRONT PAGE - By Alana Chris­tensen

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have thrown cold wa­ter on a plan to loan en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter to ir­ri­ga­tors to see them through the drought, say­ing the en­vi­ron­ment is also des­per­ate for wa­ter.

Calls to di­vert wa­ter to farm­ers to al­low them to grow hay and fod­der have gained mo­men­tum in re­cent weeks as drought con­di­tions in NSW and Queens­land con­tinue to worsen.

The dry win­ter con­tin­ues to af­fect northern Vic­to­ria also, with below-aver­age rain­fall recorded and farm­ers be­gin­ning to off­load stock and cat­tle as they strug­gle to feed them.

Politi­cians are throw­ing their weight be­hind the idea, calling on en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter hold­ers to al­low the wa­ter to be traded, hope­fully re­duc­ing pres­sure on tem­po­rary wa­ter mar­kets which are cur­rently see­ing wa­ter sold for more than $300/Ml in the Goul­burn pool, ac­cord­ing to Water­pool Co-op.

Although ac­knowl­edg­ing the tough con­di­tions farm­ers are fac­ing, En­vi­ron­ment Vic­to­ria’s Healthy Rivers cam­paign man­ager Juliet Le Feu­vre said as­sur­ances the wa­ter would be ‘‘bor­rowed’’ for a short time could not be made.

‘‘We have no idea how long this drought will go on for. It could be years be­fore the wa­ter is given back,’’ she said.

When asked what her re­sponse was to com­ments that rivers and wet­lands would nor­mally be dry in drought con­di­tions, Ms Le Feu­vre said the en­vi­ron­ment got hit with a ‘‘dou­ble whammy’’ in th­ese con­di­tions as not only did wa­ter not nat­u­rally flow down, but the rivers and wet­lands suf­fered as a re­sult of wa­ter be­ing saved for ir­ri­ga­tion.

Although en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists have cau­tioned against the plan, politi­cians have thrown their sup­port be­hind it.

Vic­to­rian Wa­ter Min­is­ter Lisa Neville an­nounced her sup­port for the plan, say­ing she had spo­ken with Fed­eral Wa­ter Min­is­ter David Lit­tleproud to urge him to call on the Com­mon­wealth En­vi­ron­men­tal Wa­ter Holder to ex­plore ways to make more wa­ter avail­able for farm­ers.

Ms Neville has also called on the Vic­to­rian En­vi­ron­men­tal Wa­ter Holder to do the same and asked DELWP to con­sider the most ef­fi­cient use of wa­ter.

‘‘We’ve asked for any avail­able en­vi­ron­men­tal wa­ter to be traded to farm­ers in Vic­to­ria and we would like the Fed­eral Govern­ment to do the same,’’ Ms Neville said.

The calls have been echoed by State Mem­ber for Shep­par­ton and Goul­burn Mur­ray Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict wa­ter lead­er­ship co-chair Suzanna Sheed who said farm­ers across the re­gion were be­com­ing in­creas­ingly anx­ious.

‘‘The lack of win­ter rain and a pre­dicted dry spring means the cur­rent crops in the ground could fail . . . We are hear­ing that some dairy farm­ers are al­ready culling their herds be­cause of the threat they are un­der from the im­pend­ing fod­der short­age,’’ Ms Sheed said.

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