Farmers respond to water management

By Southern Riverina News

About 55 farmers from the Finley discussion groups met recently to discuss cropping and feeding strategies.

The farmers were asked to fill in a survey on what changes are needed for the management of irrigation water. Here are their responses and ideas:

The NSW Government needs to realise we are not going to survive as a drought proof area unless they assure us with a minimum allocation each year — ie. 10 to 20 per cent — that allows communities to continue in a healthy state. Another farmer said allocations need to be a minimum 40 per cent every year, and of the 40 per cent you would sign a declaration not to sell it.

The environmental flows are there for rivers because the rivers are used to supply irrigators.

There should be no environmental allocation or usage during dry or drought years.

We need the Water Act changed so it preserves endangered species ie. irrigation farmers.

Another said change the rules so the only people with a landholding can carryover water. Reduce carryover back to 20 per cent so it doesn’t lower dam capacity.

This will prevent environmental water (which they don’t know what to do with) taking up all the space.

There was lots of feedback on the Murray Darling Basin Plan, including:

The Murray Darling Basin Authority needs to be held to account over its outcomes.

Are the environmental flows (a) having the affect, (b) who is checking the outcomes, (c) do they need environmental flows in dry years? More accountability is needed — how much water is going down the Murray?

Another farmer said a full audit of Murray operating functions was needed.

Rewrite the Basin Plan was an opinion but another response was that the plan is unfortunately here to stay. However implementation of the rules around water sharing and managing environmental flows needs to be fair for all.

The waste of water we have seen this year in a drought year is criminal. There should be no environmental waste.

There were lots of thoughts on South Australian water. The Basin Plan is more than delivering water just to SA.

The water plan should be changed so there is less to SA. If there is a Royal Commission into the plan it needs to look at the SA allocation and barrages.

One said more SA water should be supplied via the Murrumbidgee Valley.

The lower connected water trading basin requires more dam water storages — ie. Big Buffalo Dam — to provide water for farming and the environment.

The Basin Plan needs to be independent of politics and to express the loss factor of sending water to SA.

The MDBA should take over SA like it’s already taken over Queensland, NSW and Victoria. SA are now selling water as they have enough!

There is a need to look at the transmission loss to deliver water to corporate plantations on greenfield sites in Victoria and NSW, as well as SA. There should be an audit into the SA government control of their water.

Accountability by Basin Authority and NSW Water for the water losses of running the Murray are too high, increasing losses by sending water for the environment and SA needs. The transmission losses to SA, like flooding of forests at Barmah Choke, should be debited to environmental water.

The Lower Lakes cannot be kept as fresh water. The Lower Lakes should revert to estuary water.

Four farmers said the barrages should be removed. Lake Alexandrina should be part of the Basin Plan and send it back as a tidal lake.

With my little experience with water it runs downhill. We are closest to the storages so I’m not sure for how much longer they are going to let it go to SA where they don’t use it very wisely. The trouble is there are no votes out here. We need more people talking about the Lower Lakes — we see too much water going out to the sea.

We have a plan and now we have emotive calls for more water. There is a need to stand back and consider what the real impacts of the plan have been and which areas have been impacted most and which areas were impacted least.

We need water into the Darling because if there is no Darling water SA’s water will have to come from the Murray.

We need to have a long term vision in Australia and look at ways to access more water into the Basin from the Northern Rivers for water security long term and then implement the infrastructure to achieve it. The Bradfield scheme into top of Darling is needed.

We need water but nothing will change because there’s not enough of us to vote and make a difference. The only change will be when the whole population is hungry. Hopeless! Earlier and more transparent allocation announcements would help. People buying water with no irrigation land is an issue. The best use of water is for it to be used higher up in the valley (with fewer losses) and we need this to be communicated to the people in power.

We need more media on nil allocations and what it means for rural communities with the decimation of rural areas. We have to be more aggressive in stating our case.

There is probably not going to much more rice anymore and possibly corn. The politicians need to realise the impact of zero water allocation.

Last but not least several farmers said we badly need rain to save our communities. It needs to rain to improve water allocations. We need rain in the north and our catchments.