Home' Smart Farmer : April 2011 Contents April 2011
THE management of water through-
out Australia is changing and
increases in the price of water will
encourage further change.
Three systems of water manage-
ment are emerging in Australia and
will present opportunities and chal-
lenges for farmers in the future.
The systems involve irrigation
water management, including the
use of water markets, urban water
supplies and the administration and
distribution of environmental water.
Traditionally, water management
has been divided into rural and
urban water but the boundaries are
becoming more blurred.
Rural irrigation water is being
traded into the cities and the man-
agement of environmental water is
becoming more important in the
cities, as well as the country.
The three water systems overlap in
their management of our precious
resource, but it is easier to discuss
water by breaking it into different
Importantly, one area of overlap
involves the use of markets and
water trading to help manage
Australia's water resources.
Water to the value of $3 billion
was traded in 2009-10. About nine-
ty per cent of this multi-billion dol-
lar trade occurred in the
Murray/Darling Basin, and the
Western Mount Lofty Ranges is part
of the basin.
The majority of trading occurs
with irrigation water, but large quan-
tities of water have been traded from
farms to the cities, as utilities seek
greater supply to support increasing
State governments in the lower
basin agreed to stop issuing new
water licences in 1993 and a cap was
introduced in 1997 for New South
Wales, Victoria and SA. Queensland
and the ACT also agreed to cap new
licences in the basin in 2000.
Governments of all persuasions are
using water markets to move water
to higher value uses.
Working markets for environmen-
tal water are still some years away,
but academics and bureaucrats are
considering ways that trading for
environmental water can occur.
The Federal Government has been
buying water for the environment.
There has been a movement of water
from the farm to the environment,
and irrigators and irrigated produc-
tion are not automatically supported
by governments which now need to
satisfy voters and urban folk who are
concerned about the environment.
Nine hundred and sixty-five gigal-
itres of water has been bought for the
environment and this water needs to
be allocated and managed. One
management model being consid-
ered is the allocation of water to
regional environmental water man-
agers who are responsible for water-
ing their local environment, as needs
Urban water is understood by
most people. City users are billed for
water at the rate of about $2.50/kL,
but this cost is escalating and is like-
ly to continue to increase for some
time. Price increases will encourage
people to use less water and seek
alternatives to current systems.
One model involves a move to a
user-pays system where restrictions
in times of shortages are imposed as
a last resort.
Another model involves the buy-
ing of other sources of water, for
example water from captured and
treated stormwater. This already
occurs in the boundaries of the City
of Salisbury, north of Adelaide.
• Need to know more?
with DR RJ (Bob) O'BRIEN
Water prices may be checked any time via:
Percat's Spot Market Prices
No Buyers $8
No Buyers $11
NSW (General Security
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No Buyers $800
Price to change management of resource
By MALCOLM SUTTON
TATE Water Minister Paul
Caica did his best to present
the draft Western Mount Lofty
Ranges Water Allocation Plan as a
crucial tool to manage water sustain-
ably in the region.
But for more than 800 people who
packed the town hall at Strathalbyn
on March 28 -- spilling onto the
streets from the building -- the mes-
sage was not one they wanted to
And the idea of metering rainwa-
ter tanks and dams met stiff opposi-
tion from a largely cynical crowd.
Mr Caica persisted, comparing the
Natural Resources Management
Board proposals to the Murray
Darling Basin Plan.
"It's about making sure that the
water is shared evenly across the
area so that all people get a share,"
"If you're sitting at the top of a
catchment, you'll say, 'what's the
problem?' If you're sitting at the bot-
tom you'll say, 'come and have a
look at my problem'."
Mr Caica said the WAP would not
make people pay for rainwater col-
lected in domestic tanks and
described such claims as a "beat-
Instead, he reiterated that rainwa-
ter tanks would only be metered if
they collected more than 500 kilo-
litres of water, or water that was
used for commercial irrigation pur-
"My understanding is you would
need a roof-size of about 1000
square metres to be able to collect
that level of water ... I want to put to
bed the idea that we're going to
charge and meter rainwater tanks in
But it was the idea that meters
would be installed on dams that
caused the most commotion from a
crowd that included people from
throughout the Mount Lofty Ranges
and Fleurieu Peninsula, as well as a
high number of local government
representatives and politicians --
including Members of the
Oppostion who heckled from the
There are 13,000 dams in the
Western Mt Lofty Ranges.
The plan proposes licensed meters
for 1700 of them, mandatory for
those who hold more than 500kL
for commercial use, as well as a
potential 800-900 dams used for
Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges
NRMB general manager Kym Good
said meters were being proposed to
control the region's increasing
demand for water.
"Prior to prescription, dams were
being built at 200 a year," he said.
"Even in the past two years, we've
had 64 applications for small stock
and domestic dams, and without
some control over development of
Cynical crowd pans
water metering plan
Public meeting draws 800 people
Crowd jeers water authorities
Water Minister promises
dams, it puts the primary industries
in this region at risk, which are
worth more than $440 million."
But Leader of the Opposition
Isobel Redmond said data behind
the plan was flawed.
She said it reflected a lack of pub-
lic consultation by the NRMB and
was an example of State
Government imposing decisions
regardless of community opposition.
"It has decided what the decision
is and it doesn't matter what is said
at this meeting or every other meet-
ing. It's just about ticking the box
and saying, yes, we've consulted the
community," she said.
Members of the public asked
authorities whether all the data
being used to make decisions would
be freely available, to which a frus-
trated Mr Caica answered "yes" and
pointed out there were already up to
40 reports available online.
There were also accusations of
'treason' because off-shore compa-
nies had the right to buy and trade
in the State's water licences from
The meeting was organised by the
Food Producers and Land Action
Group of SA and chaired by Federal
Independent Senator for SA Nick
Sen Xenophon said the level of
public interest was extraordinary
and with so many people in atten-
dance, it was a clear sign that the
government needed to go back to
the drawing board.
The plan is being reviewed by the
NRMB before it is passed to Minister
Caica for approval.
which thought it
owned the rain
was "totally out
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