Latest updates from NSW and Victorian water authorities confirm the dire impact of drought on irrigators in more than a dozen rivers across the Murray Darling Basin. 

In NSW General Security water licence holders on the Murray, Lower Darling, Lachlan, Belubula, Macquarie Cudgegong, Lower Namoi, Gwydir, and Border Rivers all have zero allocation.  In Victoria Low Reliability users on the Campaspe, Goulburn, Loddon and Murray also have zero allocation.

National Irrigators Council (NIC) CEO, Steve Whan said “these rivers cover a massive portion of Australia’s most important agricultural production zone.  Add in the Murrumbidgee where General Security users have just 7% allocation and you have most of the Basin.

“General and low reliability water is the water that is used to grow annual crops, things like the fodder graziers desperately need, cotton, rice and other irrigated grains. 

“This year thousands of family farmers will earn little or no income, and without their harvest many thousands of flow-on jobs in their local communities will also be affected.

“In NSW General Security water is the biggest part of the picture, its available when there has been rain and in a dry time it is not.  In some ways that helps the system to adjust to drought and climate variability.

“Higher security water helps to ensure that permanent plantings like grape vines and fruit trees get through dry periods.  As the name suggests it keeps going longer but in all cases water for critical human needs (ie towns) comes first. 

“Australia developed irrigation infrastructure because in such a variable climate we had to store water to ensure we could provide the food and fibre Australians need.  That infrastructure helps to buffer, but can never eliminate, the impacts of drought.

“The rules for our rivers mean that most of the water that flows into our rivers is not extracted.  In an average year overall 2/3 of inflows into the Murray Darling Basin are not extracted by anyone.  Unfortunately, we are not in an average year and each week we are seeing new records for the lowest ever inflows. 

“That causes very real suffering right across affected communities and the environment.  That suffering is not helped by people who blame farmers – with no water – for the problems drought and climate extremes are causing.”

Media Contact:  Steve Whan 0429 780 883

Thursday 31 January 2019