Better use of water for environment – not more buybacks

Minister for Resources and Water, the Hon Keith Pitt MP

Member for Farrer, the Hon Sussan Ley MP

Senator for New South Wales, Senator Perin Davey

The Australian Government is investing $35.1 million to improve Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) delivery infrastructure to make water already held for the environment work harder.

Minister for Resources and Water, Keith Pitt, said the investment would broaden the MIL’s customer base reducing operating and maintenance costs for 2,200 irrigators.

“This project will also create 256 direct and indirect local jobs in construction and 7 jobs permanently in operations as well as providing agricultural and environmental benefits by getting water to new areas and at new times,” Minister Pitt said.

“Increasing the capacity of the existing channel escapes will mean environmental water can fill wetlands and creeks that would otherwise only get wet during large over bank flows.

“This is about making our available water work harder and smarter.

“The project funds water infrastructure upgrades to achieve better environmental outcomes in the region – improving environmental water delivery across 372 km of ephemeral creeks and up to 100 ephemeral wetlands – important environmental assets in the Edward Wakool river system.

“This is the sort of project that demonstrates that water recovery isn’t the only way we can achieve good environmental outcomes and the Australian Government is open to innovative approaches to improve river and wetland health.

“We put an end to buybacks because of the damage they have done to regions like this – stretching beyond the individual farmgate and impacting on the efficiency or whole irrigation networks,” Minister Pitt said.

Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, said communities, like those through the Murray Irrigation System, had done the hard yards through buybacks to put water in the hands of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

“Production changes, reduced inflows and untargeted buybacks have reduced water delivery in the MIL by 40% in the past 30 years leaving valuable water infrastructure stranded – for farmers and environmental water holders,” Minister Ley said.

“Increasing the capacity to deliver larger volumes of environmental water through the network is like adding another 100 users, given the scale of potential water use.

“This project will help us make water for the environment work just as hard as farmers work their water.”

Senator Perin Davey said, with 98% of water recovered, it was time to focus on projects like this that delivered environmental outcomes.

“There’s been so much emphasis on achieving water recovery targets – it’s time we also focused on supporting the CEWH to use the available water to best effect,” Senator Davey said.

“In this area, projects like this that enhance Basin Plan outcomes in concert with productive agriculture will see real improvements in the local environment as well as providing downstream benefits.

“This, combined with our commitment to looking at improving water management efficiency through the Off-farm Efficiency Program show we are committed to delivering the Basin Plan in a way that will help agriculture become a $100 billion industry by 2030 as well as improving environmental outcomes.

“We committed to putting communities back at the heart of the Basin Plan and projects like these are a clear demonstration of that commitment,” Senator Davey said.

/Public Release. View in full here.