NSW farmers cheated by irrigation failures in other states

 

 

NSW is being cheated by every other Murray Darling Basin state as all have failed to properly monitor farmers' water usage in compliance with a national agreement.

Irrigation Australia has assessed how every state and territory fares against requirements for measuring water pumped out of rivers and dams, giving NSW a score of 72 per cent to date - well above all other jurisdictions.

Queensland was the worst performing Basin state with just 28 per cent compliance, followed by South Australia with 48 per cent and Victoria with 60 per cent.

The lower Darling River was not flowing earlier this year. Picture: Toby Zerna
The lower Darling River was not flowing earlier this year. Picture: Toby Zerna

In a damning submission to the Productivity Commission's national water reform inquiry, Irrigation Australia argued compliance with national framework has "generally been poor" in all states and territories "except NSW".

Among the issues identified was the failure of other states and territories to comply with standards for installing water meters.

"This backsliding has been for political reasons and these decisions were certainly not made in the best interests of sound metering policy," Irrigation Australia said.

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey told The Daily Telegraph said the state had "set the benchmark" for compliance policy and it was "well overdue for other states to catch up".

NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey tours the lower Darling River which is yet to see the first flush of the water flowing through the Darling River. Picture: Toby Zerna
NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey tours the lower Darling River which is yet to see the first flush of the water flowing through the Darling River. Picture: Toby Zerna

 

"It's time the magnifying glass was turned on the other states," she said.

"NSW shouldn't be kept to one standard and all other states to another."

Ms Pavey said the state's farmers had done all they could to return water to the environment during the worst drought in recorded history.

"NSW has reformed laws, created a new compliance agency in the independent Natural Resource Access Regulator and strengthened water metering and monitoring," she said.

"Over the past month NSW completed regulating all water take, which is a historic turning point for our water management system."

The federal government's Murray-Darling Basin Inspector General Mick Keelty also recently praised NSW's reforms.

"What's happening with NRAR is embarrassing the other states into addressing how they look at compliance," he said.

A boy is seen under the flow of water as it hits the Brewarrina Weir in February after years of crippling drought. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images
A boy is seen under the flow of water as it hits the Brewarrina Weir in February after years of crippling drought. Picture: Jenny Evans/Getty Images

This month the state government confirmed NSW will measure every drop of flood water harvested by farmers in real time to crack down on wrongdoers under a massive transparency boost the government now wants other states in the Murray Darling Basin to adopt.

Farmers across NSW will be required to install hi-tech sensors in their water storage that then collects pumping data and pings the information straight to regulators every few minutes.

Major irrigators in the state's north will be required to attach the tamper-proof meters to their water pumps by December, with every farmer across NSW expected to have the technology installed and certified by July 1 next year.

A 175-strong team at the NRAR will monitor the data and move swiftly to investigate and penalise any illegal water pumping during floods.

Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association executive officer Zara Lowein said the real-time data collection was an important factor in giving communities confidence water was being taken fairly.

Ms Lowein said, along with measurement data, a strong compliance regimen where wrongdoers were penalised was important. "Mandatory reporting of (water) take and things like satellite monitoring all bring together a much better picture of the forms of water use in NSW," she said.

Originally published as NSW farmers cheated by irrigation failures in other states



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