Irrigators used temporary water markets to cope with drought

Irrigators in the Murray-Darling Basin faced challenging conditions in 2019-20 because of water scarcity and low allocations, the ACCC’s 11th annual Water Monitoring Report shows.

During 2019-20, irrigation infrastructure operators delivered 1442 GL, 47 per cent less than in 2018-19 and the lowest volume of water deliveries reported for at least five years.

Drier conditions and low allocations persisted through 2019, although above-average rainfall from January to April 2020 across much of the Murray-Darling Basin created favourable winter cropping conditions.

NSW and South Australian irrigation infrastructure operators reported 140 transformation applications, up 16 per cent from 2018-19.

Transformation refers to the process by which an irrigator can turn their irrigation right into an individually owned water access entitlement held by the irrigator or another person.

The ACCC prepares typical bills showing estimated annual charges for infrastructure operators customers, for specified volumes of irrigation right and water delivery scenarios.

Overall, for 2019-20, the ACCC found modest increases in the majority of typical bills for on-river networks and irrigation infrastructure operators.

Complaints and inquiries regarding the Water Market Rules 2009 and Water Charge Rules 2010 were slightly down from 2018-19, which may partly be attributed to some stakeholder concerns being considered by the ACCC’s Murray-Darling Basin water markets inquiry.

The report found that even with the tight supply conditions, total temporary trade volumes reported by irrigation infrastructure operators increased by 16 per cent, from 4.4 to 5.1 GL, the largest volume reported in seven years.

The ACCC monitors regulated water charges and compliance with the water rules by infrastructure operators and Basin state governments.

Read the full report at