Parliament Water

Adjournment - Water Policy

Thursday 23rd February 2017

Mr WALSH (Murray Plains) — (12 303) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Water. I call on the minister to conduct a formal review of the carryover rules for water in northern Victoria so that Victorian irrigators do not continue to have their annual allocation reduced by the outcomes of those current rules.

Carryover was introduced in the mid‑2000s to allow irrigators to manage some of the risk of access to water allocations from one irrigation season to the next. But after a number of years of operation it is now clear that the carryover rules are actually reducing the amount of water available to irrigators in any given year.

As storage levels rise, water entitlement holders’ carryover is placed in a spill account, which is only accessible when the risk of a spill is low at some time throughout the season. This year, particularly on the Murray, that did not happen until recently. If there is a spill event — that is, the storages overflow — as did happen on the Hume this year, water that is in the spill account is lost by those particular irrigators. It is also lost, obviously, by the environmental water holder. But the environmental water holder received some benefit from that spill in downstream flows.

As I said, when a spill like that happens, the environment gets those downstream benefits, not only from their spill water, but also from the irrigators’ spill water, whereas the irrigators get absolutely no benefit from that water once it is going down the river. We had an issue raised by the member for Mildura in this place last year when irrigators in his area around the Sunraysia district were losing water out of their spill account. Three months later it was going to run past Mildura, but they were not going to be able to access that.

There is a strongly held view that because of those irrigation storages being held higher, particularly because of environmental water carryover, the risk of spills is greater. That means there is an increased risk that irrigators will lose their water, but there will be downstream benefits for the environment. I believe the environment is benefiting to the tune of something like 200 gigalitres of water per year because of the perverse outcomes from irrigators via these current rules. No credit is given to meeting the Murray‑Darling Basin plan water recovery targets by this particular water, hence the urgent need for a review of the Victorian carryover rules, which are unfair to irrigators.

As I said, they lose something like 200 gigalitres a year of water that just goes down the river, but it does deliver a benefit to the environment and should be used to make some credits for the Murray‑Darling Basin plan if the rules are not changed. In the strongest possible terms I urge the Minister for Water to have an urgent review of the carryover rules so that they are fair in the future to both irrigators and the environment.

 

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