Water for production could be reduced to support higher planned environmental water flows, under changes proposed in the draft 2020 NSW Murray and Lower Darling Water Sharing Plan.
The Ricegrowers’ Association warns supplementary events are likely most at risk, with the draft sharing plan giving more discretion on whether to allow irrigator access or reserve uncontrolled flows to deliver environmental objectives detailed in the draft NSW Murray Long-Term Water Plan.
The Long-Term Water Plan proposes to coordinate held (HEW) and planned (PEW) environmental water across the southern Basin to create more overbank events, including flows over the South Australian border consistent with a 3200GL Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“Planned Environmental Water has not been used in this way in the past,” warns Rob Massina, President of the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA).
“In short, the 2020 NSW Murray Water Sharing Plan seeks to cop-opt PEW to deliver increased flow rates consistent with a 3200 GL Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The only way we see this can be done is by reducing irrigator access to supplementary events.”
Rob Massina said communities were repeatedly reassured the draft 2020 Water Sharing Plan only rolled over the 2016 Plan with no material changes affecting irrigators’ legal rights to water.
“But in fact the draft 2020 water sharing plan goes beyond the 2016 Plan. Instead of simply managing planned environmental water to achieve environmental objectives, the 2020 plan goes one step further to increase the portion of natural flows, through the reduction of irrigators’ entitlements” warns Rob.
“Overall, the plan appears to give water managers more discretionary control to boost planned environmental water to the detriment of irrigators. Any changes to the plan that will impact yield and the value of irrigator’s water entitlements is non-negotiable.”
“This is unacceptable, and we are calling on the NSW Government in our submission to reinstate the relevant clauses from the 2016 water sharing plan.”