Riverina growers expressing concerns over water sharing plan

Winegrape growers in the Riverina are concerned about a lack of consultation on the draft Murrumbidgee Surface Water Sharing Plan (WSP) and fear it will negatively impact irrigators and its communities.

Under the current WSP, high security irrigators in the NSW Murrumbidgee must share five per cent of their water allocations from the Murray-Darling region, or 15% for general security irrigators during low allocation seasons.

CEO of Riverina Winegrape Growers, Brian Simpson, told the Grapegrower & Winemaker that, while irrigators want to help the environment, there needs to be compensation for irrigators as they effectively pay for the fixed charges on their full allocation and give a percentage away most years.

“We’re all still properly allocated for our full water supplies, but high security and general security irrigators, under current legislation, have to give 5% and 15% back, respectively,” he said.

“It means that irrigators are losing money and are then being put under pressure with less water supply.”

The NSW Government has been reviewing the WSP but Simpson said irrigators had not been properly consulted about its concerns.

“Our biggest concern is that there’s a real lack of any meaningful consultation by NSW-governing water departments for the region’s irrigators where their concerns can be heard,” he said.

“Initially, we (that is to say a group of both high and general security irrigators) banded together to draft a letter detailing our major concerns with government water departments.

“We even had a meeting with the Minister for Water about it which turned up no results for us. We left that meeting feeling as though we still weren’t being heard well enough, and now they are continuing with their plans regardless.

“I think the government is going to continue with what they’re doing. The water sharing plans will be approved as they are and irrigators will continue to pay for water they don’t receive.

“I think that’s disappointing because this day and age, when we know you need water, you buy it, and receive what you pay for. But now it seems that isn’t the case.”