Water recovery must consider regional impacts

January 27, 2018

Gabrielle Coupland at this week’s Stakeholder Advisory Panel workshop in Sydney with (from left) NSW Department of Industry acting deputy director general of water Charlie Dowsett, Murray Darling Basin Authority CEO Phillip Glyde and NSW Irrigators Council chair Richard Stott.

Measuring impacts of water recovery at a regional level will provide a more comprehensive picture of what is happening in our communities, according to Southern Riverina Irrigators.

Responding to the release of a report by Ernst and Young into opportunities to recover more water with neutral social and economic impacts, SRI chair Gabrielle Coupland said it was important to look beyond the farm gate because ‘‘this region had already given up so much’’.

‘‘Our region has been at the forefront of water reform and environmental water recovery since the 1990s.

‘‘They do not need a further 450 gigalitres if environmental water is managed well.

‘‘In this report we expected more recognition of the variable impacts the Basin Plan has had to date in different regions and a recommendation that future programs consider how hard a community has already been hit.

‘‘We acknowledge the report identifies some constructive opportunities for future discussion especially taking a more regionally based approach to maximise opportunities and to increase flexibility in the programs.

‘‘But the reality is that it is going to get harder and harder to find savings and water is going to get more and more expensive and that will negate any of the potential benefits of further efficiencies.’’

Mrs Coupland said while the report touches on this issue, SRI believes it does not give enough credence to the reality of it, nor does it understand the industry and regional scale impacts.

‘‘Over the years through every new reform our productive farmers have adapted and adjusted to ensure this region remains one of the key irrigation districts in the basin, but we’re ‘reform fatigued’ as identified in the report.

‘‘What we really want is innovative approaches made by those in charge of water recovery so they don’t just keep coming back to the farmer who is seen as an easy target.

‘‘We are pleased to see the report identify water recovery options that do not target farmers such as urban and off-farm projects.

‘‘Finally, there is recognition that urban centres like Adelaide and Canberra, as identified by Ernst and Young, need to be part of the overall Basin Plan solution,’’she said.

Mrs Coupland welcomed a commitment from NSW Minister Niall Blair that any future recovery in NSW had to be socially and economically positive.

‘‘We are always open to working with our State Government and others to ensure that investment in our region will result in increased productivity,’’ she said.

‘‘For us that conversation also needs to be about how to avoid any further water recovery from vulnerable communities while maximising opportunities.’’

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