There is nothing straight forward or logical about how water is allocated for irrigation in Australia. And every scheme and catchment has its own historical idiosyncrasies.
I am always amazed when I read that irrigators are paying for water they aren’t getting when there is a drought. Payment for a percentage of an allocation even if the dam is dry is a condition of many irrigation licenses.
Just yesterday ABC Online reported that:
“The NSW Government is under pressure to waive fixed water charges for Lachlan Valley irrigators.
Producers have started receiving bills for the 2004/5 financial year, despite not having a water allocation during that period.
Is it possible that some south east Queensland irrigators could one day have to pay for no water, because it has been sold to a power station?
A reader of this blog, Hasbeen, was extremely frustrated last week after attending the Community Reference Panel launch of the Logan Basin Draft Water Resource Plan. Logan is just south of Brisbane in south east Queensland, Australia.
Draft plans and reference panels are part of the jargon and process of resource planning in Australia. It has been my observation that they often reflect government’s commitment to consult, while its policy officers dabble in central planning.
I have edited the following note from Hasbeen, written after he attended that meeting:
“What a joke. We got over an hour of an ‘Environmental Investigations Report’ which said it is more important that the river is a wildlife corridor, than we do anything to reduce/prevent erosion and the invertebrates in the sand are much more important than the people who live, and work, on the river.
Then the real crunch, what it means to the people who have lived on, and depended on the river for much of their lives.
For irrigators on supplemented streams there will be not much change. They will still pay for their water allocation, whether or not ther is water. But there is a likelihood that this water will also be sold to higher payers, e.g. power stations, in future.
For those on unsupplemented streams, where not one cent of taxpayer funds has been spent, the story is bad. These people are on area licenses, dictating that they may irrigate so many hectares. These are to be converted to volume licences, but at a very low rate, varying between 4 and 4.5 ML/ha.
Department of Primary Industry figures state that it takes 5.6 ML/ha per year to maintain pasture grass, about the lowest user of irrigation. For dairy farmers it takes 6 ML/ha to produce 4 months of winter rye grass, then a similar amount to run summer feed. Lucerne growers could not survive on this allocation, and neither could small crops growers.
We were told this conversion figure was chosen after a survey of irrigators, but none of the community reference panel had been surveyed.
To make matters worse, a volumetric cap will be put on water harvesting. Harvesting is only allowed when the river is in ‘fresh’, and hundreds of megaliters per day is rushing out to sea.
To tell a farmer that he must watch a river, 30 meters wide, and 6 meters deep rush past his pump, with out taking any is stupid. When that water will be in Morton Bay in 6 hours, it’s criminal.
One of the water resource people I spoke to did not appear to understand our little river, it seemed as if we were talking about two different things.
Their thinking, and I suppose, training relates to our long, slow, inland rivers, where water can take weeks to meander down stream. He found it almost impossible to believe that if we all pumped, with all our pumps, we could not make a dent in the flow of our river during a fresh.
He would not believe that a rain drop, from our head water, would be in Morton Bay in 24 hours.
After EIGHT years of community input we have got a total ‘stuff up’.
None of the pain this plan will impose on our community will, or can, have any benefit for anyone. We will pay for our water, even if there isn’t any, and probably go broke doing it.
How can they get it so wrong, unless there is a hidden agenda, and this plan is to be used as a basis for other plans, which can advantage urban water supply.”
End of note from Hasbeen.