Littleproud could broker discussions

By Zoe McMaugh

The Federal Government could potentially intervene in an effort to address water allocation stress being felt.

Federal Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud told the Pastoral Times last week he could broker discussions between the basin states on the Water Sharing Rules, if it is required.

He raised the possibility when asked what more he could be doing to assist NSW Murray Valley irrigators receive a general security water allocation.

It was on the back of a suggestion from Speak Up Campaign vice chair and Blighty dairy farmer Lachlan Marshall that in a period of special accounting, South Australia could look at the way the water is shared.

NSW Murray Valley irrigators are still awaiting a starting allocation from when the season opened in July, after have a zero allocation for the 12 months previous.

Meanwhile, South Australia is on 74 per cent (irrigation) and 100 per cent (dairy and industry) allocation and has the barrages open at the Murray Mouth allowing fresh water to run out to sea.

"Those types of arrangements are between the states, and can be discussed between the states," Mr Littleproud said.

"When you see water flowing through, it is not always environmental water. There are entitlements that must be met.

"And i must acknowledge (Victorian Water Minister) Lisa Neville who has taken a stance against some of the uses of that water down stream.

"It is important the state ministers get together on that, and the Commonwealth would be happy to facilitate that.

"We would hope it could be achieved without us getting involved, but we happy to be involved if needed.

"There are long held arrangements in place, but I can state that I had a conversation with the South Australian minister about eight or nine months ago about the water held in the Hume and whether it could help."

Local stakeholders say it is the Water Sharing Rules and elements of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan affecting water availability.

Mr Littleproud has, on several occasions, been quoted as saying rain is the only real solution, including when in Echuca last Monday.

Mr Marshall has also suggested the return of losses from the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder could be used as "critical needs water".

Mr Littleproud said those discussions would need to be held with the CEWH and Federal Minister for Environment Sussan Ley.