Irrigators want water recovery target decreased in southern basin as well as northern basin

THE country’s water authority has refuted claims by MIA farmers suggesting southern basin irrigators are getting a dud deal. 

The comment comes after Murrami grower Debbie Buller said arguing about water recovery figures with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) wouldn’t get anyone anywhere.

Mrs Buller said the MDBA had plenty to answer for following its announcement the Basin Plan would be amended to allow for a reduction in the northern basin’s water recovery target. 

The reduction comes on the back of a four-year consultation process and review finalising a decrease in recovered water from 390 gigalitres to 320 gigalitres. Mrs Buller was tired of playing “the numbers game”. 

“We are forever arguing with them about the numbers … it’s crazy,” she said. 

“They already have a heap of water, but they don’t seem to care about the effects that has on irrigators. 

“Obviously the northern basin has had this review and we would love for them to do something similar here, but they have said they won’t be. 

“You try to pinpoint a concern or question with them and they’ll say ‘oh no that’s not up to us, it’s the state government that’s responsible’ or ‘the legislation says we can’t do that’. It’s ridiculous.”

According to the MDBA, the southern basin’s water recovery target may be lessened through its sustainable diversion limit mechanisms and a five-year review of the plan.  

Murray-Darling Association chairman and Leeton mayor Paul Maytom was hopeful this would be the case. 

“That five-year review is expected to be completed by the end of the year … I am hopeful through it we might see a decrease in our water recovery targets as a result of that,” he said. “As far as I am aware the authority won’t be conducting a review in the south like they have with the northern review. 

“I do know with the SDLs the number could be reduced by up to 650 gigalitres, but that is anywhere up to that figure. It could be 100 gigalitres. We just don’t know yet. Hopefully we will know more when the review is complete.”

A statement from the MDBA confirmed there was an opportunity to adjust the SDL limits through its adjustment mechanism. “While this is not a review like we have just done in the northern basin, it will reduce the water recovery target and improve the social and economic outcomes,” the statement read.

“(Under this), basin state governments develop and commit to projects that can deliver equivalent environmental outcomes with less water. The projects being developed by the states aim to make environmental watering more efficient by investing in environmental works (and) improving river management practices ...”