Key advisors to the Federal Water Minister Penny Wong were given a new appreciation of how efficient almond growers are with water during a visit to the Riverland of South Australia this month. The ABA recently joined other SA Murray Irrigators (SAMI) and other industry representatives in meeting with key advisors to Minister Wong at Renmark. The two-day visit was designed to allow irrigators from key commodity groups like almonds gain a better insight into the water reform plans of the Federal Government as well as showcase technology being used by irrigators to make properties as efficient as possible. It was made clear by the advisors that Minister Wong is committed to the 10-year reform plan that was outlined in the recent COAG agreement between all governments within the Murray Darling Basin. Following these meetings, SAMI developed a six-point plan to present to Minister Wong‟s advisors:
2. All points of water extraction across the basin being metered. 3. Create a National Water Register to aid transparency, remove trade barriers and allow rapid trade. 4. Compulsory licensing of all water brokers 5. Details of the Water For The Future plan being made available as soon as possible so all stakeholders can make informed decisions about their futures. 6. Obtaining water security for all water users in SA – Ensuring that there is provision for upstream storage for more than critical urban needs in the State. During the visit Minister Wong‟s advisers were shown an ABA almond demonstration site located in Renmark on Sam Pearce‟s property. During this visit the almond industry‟s current focus on water efficiency was emphasized. The three representatives from Minister Wong‟s office present included Colin Mues, who was recently put in charge of implementing the national water buy-back designed to rectify over-allocation across the basin .
Carry-over a concern for growers Concerns about carry-over water have overshadowed this week's announcement that South Australia's River Murray irrigators are likely to start the 2008/09 water season with a zero allocation. On Tuesday River Murray Minister Karlene Maywald said without widespread rain irrigators could expect to start with zero allocation when the new water year begins. However, local irrigators and grower groups were alarmed to hear that some of their carry-over water will not be available from July 1. “It is expected that at least 50 per cent of eligible carry-over will be allocated from July 1, with the remainder to be allocated as the season progresses,” Mrs Maywald said. With more than 730 applications for carry-over received in 2008/09, South Australian Murray Irrigators (SAMI) said growers need to know what proportion of carry-over will be available. According to SAMI chairman Tim Whetstone, “thousands of livelihoods” could depend on the carry-over decision. “The (zero allocation) news had made carry-over water all the more valuable, but at this stage we do not know when we will be able to use any of that water,” Mr Whetstone said. “Hundreds of families are hanging their hats on that carry- over water. “We don't know if carry-over allocations will start at zero as well - that is now the burning question we need answered, so people can plan and map out some sort of structured survival strategy.” State Opposition Water Spokesman Mitch Williams said he was “amazed” at the government's carry-over stance and questioned whether growers' water was still available. “I find it absolutely remarkable that an irrigator who has access to (carry-over) water on June 30 will only have access to 50 per cent of it on July 1,” he said. “I think that's outrageous. If the water's available, what right does (Mrs Maywald) have to dispense it out over the year? “It seems to me, and I'm struggling to understand what's going on, that she's promised to irrigators they'll be able to carry-over water that they have a legal entitlement to, but now it looks like the water's not available.” Mr Williams said the carry-over announcement was proof the government is “making decisions on the run”.
The six-point plan calls for:
1. Speeding up the timeframe to reduce water extractions in the Murray Darling Basin