Lachlan Valley chairman Tom Green said local irrigators have lost confidence in the way the Basin Plan is being implemented. Lachlan irrigators have lost confidence in the way the Basin Plan is being implemented, says Lachlan Valley Water chairman Tom Green.
Government purchases of large volumes of water in the Lachlan at the height of the drought are the crux of the problem, according to Mr Green.
“The Commonwealth Government now owns 88,000 ML of water in the Lachlan, and together with the NSW Government holdings, approximately 20 per cent of the general security water in the Lachlan is owned by government.”
Mr Green said there is no question that irrigators want a healthy river, and he believes the Water Sharing Plan is already doing a good job for the environment.
Under the Plan 75 per cent of the average annual flow in the river is reserved for the environment, allowing only 25 per cent to be taken for towns, stock and domestic needs and productive use.
“Of course, when there is very little inflow to the system, as occurred during the drought, there is less water for everyone and both the environment and production miss out,” he said.
“That 25 per cent productive share has now been whittled down to 20 per cent as a result of government purchases of water at a time when towns and the local economies throughout the Lachlan Valley needed it most.
“To have so little water available for production is hurting our local economy.
“To add to the pain, the MDBA set the Basin Plan reduction target for the Lachlan at the volume of water that had already been purchased, rather than assessing whether the environmental outcomes could have been met with less water, and therefore less impact on the community.”
Mr Green said that he believes the Lachlan valley is suffering as a result of this untargeted approach, simply focussing on volumes rather than outcomes, and questioned the benefit of the environmental outcomes compared with the economic and social cost to the community.
“In 2015, for example, 48,000 ML was used for environmental watering, and had it been available for agriculture it could have generated an extra $33 million of production in the valley,” Mr Green said.
“There have now been five years where there has been some environmental watering and I think we really need to question how much additional benefit has been achieved from this watering over and above what the Water Sharing Plan would have delivered.”
“The Lachlan is a terminal system, it does not flow into the Murray River, so water purchased in this valley cannot contribute to downstream outcomes.
“We want the Basin Plan to deliver a better balance between the environment and the economy in our valley.
“We are calling for a review of the Commonwealth water purchases and the environmental benefits that are being obtained over and above what is already being achieved by our current Water Sharing Plan,” he added.
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