The NSW Government must take on board recommendations to improve water entitlement reliability in the final versions of the Water Sharing Plans, the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia has said.
President Rob Massina said the RGA Water Committee — which has a main objective to enhance general security water entitlement reliability — has come up with a number of alternatives to achieve this.
‘‘In particular ensuring that water use in each valley is maximised up to the valley-based Sustainable Diversion Limits,’’ he said.
‘‘This means making more water available to irrigators in years when surplus water is available, by increasing allocation limits above the current maximums of 100 per cent and 110 per cent respectively.
‘‘On average, water use in our two valleys has trended well below the allowed level of use.
‘‘A report commissioned by SunRice late last year suggested that overly restrictive water rules and policy settings are a key cause of this underuse.
‘‘Ensuring irrigation water use is maximised within the established environmentally sustainable limits will significantly boost both regional economies and the New South Wales economy as a whole. Hence it is critical the government now act to address this issue.’’
Other key suggestions for improvement include reducing the restrictions on supplementary water events, modifying the Barmah Millewa payback provisions to prevent NSW Murray allocations stalling at 30 per cent, simplifying the environmental water rules and ensuring the objectives include a key focus on maintaining and where possible enhancing reliability.
The Murrumbidgee and NSW Murray Water Sharing Plans have been subject to review for the best part of the last three years. This has been the first significant review of these Water Sharing Plans since their introduction in 2004.
During this time, the RGA and other local irrigator representatives have collectively committed thousands of hours to considering and advocating for improvements to the water rules.
The RGA has been in constant contact with both the NSW Department and the minister’s office in an effort to ensure its suggested improvements are adopted.
‘‘Improving water availability for our growers within the confines of the established valley limits should be a key focus of our state government,’’ Mr Massina said.
‘‘This is how we can ensure the continued prosperity of the irrigation sector in an environmentally sensible and sustainable manner.
‘‘The RGA look to the New South Wales Government to fulfil the Basin Plan requirement that Water Sharing Plans are endorsed by the community, and to consider our proposed improvements.’’