Talking Water, with Helen Dalton and Deb Buller, August 4 2017.

Sometimes what goes around, comes around.

Water NSW, our state river operator, is one of many (too many) ‘corporatised’ but ‘monopolised’ bureaucracies involved with managing and delivering water in the Murray Darling Basin (MDB).

They expect users to pay for the delivery of water whether we receive it or not. 

At recent price determinations, Water NSW fought hard to change their pricing structure which, passes even further financial risk onto their paying customers.

Entities managing essential inputs like power and water are ‘customer service’ industries with ‘paying customers’ – perhaps our legislators and monopoly governance departments need to put their feet in their customers’ shoes?

Because it’s perceived to be necessary to force more and more water to the Lower Murray, Lower Lakes and The Coorong, Water NSW has often needed to deliver significant amounts of water through the Murray Irrigation Area in order to bypass the Barmah Choke.

This natural constraint in the Murray River prevents Water NSW from being able to deliver large volumes downstream without creating damage to the river channel, river banks and surrounding property.

Water NSW therefore becomes a ‘customer’ of Murray Irrigation Ltd (MIL). Many of the rules and regulations that apply to delivery in our irrigation areas are administered and costed by Water NSW. MIL wants to apply the same basic rules to Water NSW that apply to everyone else using the delivery systems. 


Therefore MIL, quite reasonably, would apply Water NSW’s own ‘customer service’ rules based on Water NSW’s ‘level of service’ and ‘cost recovery’ calculations.

Water NSW don’t want to be subjected to those rules and want to be charged based solely on the amount of water that actually gets delivered or, because they are such a large customer, they’re demanding ‘mates rates’, still based on the movement of real water.

Remember that Water NSW is pushing very hard through regulations to have water delivery charged to all of us based on a rigid, non-negotiable 80:20 formula.

They want 80 per cent based on the fixed assets portion and only 20 per cent for water delivery.

Ironically, when they’re the customer, they don’t like their own rules and costings formulas and are negotiating for a less risky or ‘fairer’ arrangement.

They’re arguing for exactly what their paying customers have been longing for. What’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.