A chance discovery has left irrigation communities furious and the goodwill generated by MDBA Chairman, Craig Knowles, is evaporating, the CEO of the National Irrigators’ Council, Tom Chesson said today.

“Without telling anyone, the Commonwealth Water Department has in the latest update of water purchases on its website, changed the way they work out the reliability of the water they have purchased.

“The practical effect of this is that at the stroke of a pen the water already recovered by the Government has been significantly reduced in some valleys.”

In one example on August 31, 2011, 19,000 megalitres of water bought by the taxpayers for nearly $20 million, the expected annual average volume of water available for the environment was 3,629 megalitres, while under the new system it is now expected to be 172 megalitres.

“Communities in valleys such as the Murrumbidgee,Murray (NSW, Victoria and SA), Lachlan, and the Goulburn-Broken will have to be stripped of more water to make up the difference,” Mr Chesson said.

“We are very concerned that the Government is yet again moving the goal posts. We thought that after the reaction to the Guide, Basin communities had made their views clear.

“If it is the case that the MBDA has taken into account the new conversion factors suddenly being used by the Commonwealth Water Department, then why hasn’t anyone had the courtesy to tell the families whose lives will be directly affected that the rules had been changed?

“We know that a bad Basin Plan will cost thousands of jobs, force up food prices for all Australians and threaten the viability of family farms and regional communities.

“Communities are also questioning why the MDBA has decided to use 2009 as the benchmark year, as there is a growing perception that only 900 gigalitres of water has been recovered from food and fibre producers which is simply not true.

“Since 2004 nearly 2 million megalitres of water has been recovered from irrigators, including the water which was recently used to flood the Snowy River.

Mr Chesson said it was astounding that such a fundamental issue as conversion factors for water reliability was still being changed this late in a drawn out process.

“The Commonwealth needs to explain how it came to these new numbers.”

Media Contact: Tom Chesson (02) 6273 3637 or 0418 415 597