Namoi Valley Water restrictions

A temporary water restriction now applies to general security water users in both the Upper and Lower Namoi regulated river water source.

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The legal order will expire on 30 June 2019, unless it is modified or repealed as a result of changes to water availability.

System inflows, particularly to Split Rock and Keepit Dams, have reached unprecedented low levels and, despite water savings initiatives such as block releases, transmission losses have reached near record levels.

The severe water shortage in the regulated Namoi Valley has escalated significantly, meaning temporary water restrictions have become necessary to protect critical supplies for as long as possible.

Upper Namoi Regulated River (general security) users can access 85 percent of the volume of water held in their accounts as of 5 November 2018.

Those who have already used more than 85 per cent can use no more. Lower Namoi Regulated River (general security) users can access 85 percent of the water associated with orders placed by 5 November 2018.

No water orders will be processed beyond 5 November 2018. To give effect to the restrictions, temporary trading of water is also affected.

The replenishment flow along Pian Creek has been deferred indefinitely with WaterNSW arranging to supply affected households with potable water through alternative means. Water users should consult with WaterNSW for water delivery details and trade limitations.

Any easing of the current restriction will be dependent on rainfall and observed inflows into upper storages. Water users will be advised monthly about the current resource availability.

Water allocation

Lower Namoi general security allocation this year remains unchanged at 0 per cent of entitlement.

The last allocation increment for general security water users was more than a year ago with 7 per cent announced in August 2017.

Apart from Lower Namoi general security, all other categories of licence in the regulated river valley have received their maximum allocation for the 2018-19 water year.

Dam levels (as at 13 November)

  • Keepit Dam is 6.4 per cent full – falling – currently holding about 33,000 megalitres (ML).
  • Split Rock Dam is 7.2 per cent full – falling – currently holding about 32,000 ML. Key facts
  • There was no significant inflow to Spilt Rock and Keepit Dams during October 2018.
  • Storage inflow since the last water allocation in August 2017 has been 30,600 ML. This is 70 per cent of the previous worst recorded inflow of about 44,000 ML, which was experienced during August 1939 to October 1940.
  • The total account shortfall has worsened from 64 GL last month to 73 GL this month.
  • A block release from Keepit Dam commenced last month. Extreme transmission losses were recorded. No further block release will be possible until conditions improve.

Source: WaterNSW 2018-11

Getting the measure of water allocations

In good years, water flowing down the Murray River meets everyone’s needs with a bit in reserve. Either side of those years are the floods when there’s more than enough water around or droughts when all water users have to cope with less.

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That’s the nature of the Murray–Darling Basin—extreme variability that is notoriously difficult to predict.

A hundred years ago, Victoria, NSW and South Australia negotiated a way to manage the variability together, by giving each state a share of water that would support towns to grow and industries to develop.

Today the effect of a variable climate has been smoothed with the Hume and Dartmouth dams, which collect and store water from both the NSW and Victorian side of the high country. It has been smoothed by modifications to store water at the Menindee Lakes on the Darling River and at Lake Victoria in the mid-Murray.

Combined with major weirs, canals and pipelines built over the century, these works allow governments to determine how much, when, for how long and to whom the Murray’s water flows.

Managing the three-way split

A key part of the MDBA’s responsibility is to determine and regularly update how much of the total water in the system belongs to each state.

Working out the volume of water that can be shared means calculating how much has to be set aside first to meet the future needs of the system, such as critical human water needs, a reserve to cover evaporation losses and flows to physically deliver water throughout the system.

The water remaining can then be shared between NSW and Victoria, who in turn provide equally for South Australia’s share as agreed in the Murray–Darling Basin Agreement.

That doesn’t mean the water in the Murray system is split into three equal shares.

Water resources in Hume and Dartmouth dams are divided 50-50 between NSW and Victoria, as are Menindee Lakes when they hold more than 480 gigalitres (any less and the water is controlled by NSW alone).

Flows from the rivers that feed the Murray downstream of Albury, however, such as the Murrumbidgee and the Goulburn, are owned by their respective state. That means the volume of River Murray water available to Victoria usually exceeds that of NSW, by virtue of the states’ different rainfall and river networks. Over the long-term, Victorian tributaries (3317 gigalitres) on average deliver to the Murray more than double that of the NSW tributaries (1543 gigalitres).

Since 1 June this year, the difference is fourfold. Victoria’s tributaries have delivered 700 gigalitres of water compared with 176 gigalitres in NSW. South Australia’s total share is delivered according to a monthly schedule that adds up to 1850 gigalitres a year.

As a result South Australia’s share of water is potentially less than that of the other states, however it is a reliable quantum. In effect South Australia’s system prioritises reliability of supply during times of low water availability, as is the case now, over receiving high volumes when water is plentiful.

The flow people are observing in the Murray at the moment is water being moved between storages so it is accessible to downstream irrigators and other users during peak demand over summer. A substantial part of the flow is on its way to Lake Victoria for this purpose and to ensure South Australia gets its share of water.

Allocating the resource

Once a state knows how much water it has, it can allocate the water among those who have a licence to use it. The volume of available water at the start of the water year can and does change as the year progresses, usually as a result of rain boosting the storage levels.

Each state has developed its own set of licences and rules around how to allocate the state’s share of water to their licence holders. This means allocations in one state will be different those in another.

In some years that difference can be significant. This is one such year—the licences of many growers in NSW have not yet had any water allocated by their government, while Victorian licence holders for the large part have received reasonable allocations and the South Australian government has allocated 100 per cent to entitlements.

The main difference in approach between Victoria and NSW lies in the degree to which they build a buffer against the risk of low water availability from one year to the next. In simple terms, NSW tries to provide licence holders with access to as much water as possible in a given water year whereas Victoria keeps some in reserve for the following year.

In NSW, if storages aren’t replenished by winter and spring rain, the state’s reserve is allocated against high-security licences, and holders of low-security (general security) licences risk a low to zero allocation. A low-security allocation cannot be provided for the current year until NSW has sufficient water to meet a one per cent allocation for all low-security licence holders.

Low-security licences in NSW outnumber those of high security. This is partly a reflection of the type of food and fibre that dominates, and the variable climate that demands some flexibility in farm management. Annual crops such as rice, cotton, wheat and fodder can be planted according to the availability of water.

That is in contrast to Victoria, where rainfall is somewhat more reliable and the predominance of higher security licences favour permanent planting such as grapes, citrus and stone fruit. The Victorian system does not maximise allocations, but keeps some in reserve in order than an allocation, however low, can be provided to licence holders the following year. Permanent plantings are less forgiving than annual crops in the event of severe drought when allocations are minimal.

Planning ahead for all scenarios

Regardless of the state, licence holders also have the facility of carrying allocated water into the following year as their own buffer against drought. A great deal of the water in the dams and flowing in the river at the moment has been carried over by licence holders from last year. This is a choice available to those with an allocation this year.

There’s no right or wrong about how water is allocated. Each state’s system of distributing the resource has evolved around the needs of its communities and supported an incredible growth in diversity and value in food and fibre production.

It is a challenge to manage in times of drought—no matter how carefully the system is managed we can never drought proof a climate like ours.  Rain is needed to provide surety to all water users.

Everyone who uses water can be planning ahead for all scenarios, including the possibility that allocations do not improve and conditions stay dry.

Andrew Reynolds, Executive Director River Management, Murray–Darling Basin Authority

Source: MDBA 2018-11

National Landcare Program – Smart Farms Small Grants

Australia’s soils, water, vegetation and biodiversity underpin the productivity and sustainability of agriculture, fisheries and forestry industries. But these natural resources are under threat.

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Pressures on Australia’s natural resources can limit the viability and productivity of food and fibre businesses.

The Australian Government’s National Landcare Program aims to protect, conserve and provide for the productive use of Australia’s water, soil, plants and animals and the ecosystems in which they live and interact, in partnership with industry, communities and other governments.

As the managers of around 61 per cent of the Australian landmass, farmers have an essential role in protecting and rehabilitating natural resources.

Natural resources management practices that improve and protect the condition of soil, water, vegetation and biodiversity also assist farming, forestry and fishing industries to adapt to significant changes in climate, weather and markets.

The principal component of the National Landcare Program administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources is Smart Farms. Smart Farms will run to 2022–23. It is made up of three elements:

  • Smart Farming Partnerships—will invest $55 million through two rounds of competitive grants into medium to large scale projects to encourage the development, trial and roll-out of innovative tools and farm practices.
  • Smart Farms Small Grants—is a $55 million competitive small grants program over several rounds to support the adoption of best practices that improves the management and quality of our natural resources and increases on-farm productivity.
  • Building Landcare Community and Capacity—will invest $24 million to support the sharing of knowledge and achievements, and promote community leadership.

More information

More information about the National Landcare Program – Smart Farms Small Grants, as well as requirements for applicants can be found in the following documents that form the Grant Opportunity:

  • Grant Opportunity Guidelines
  • Questions and Answers(Please note that these will be updated with stakeholder questions until 11:30pm AEDT 4 January 2018. After this time there will be no further inquiry on the round.)
  • Application form
  • Budget Template
  • Commonwealth Simple Grant Agreement Terms and Conditions

Contacting the Community Grants Hub

If you would like assistance please call the Community Grants Hub Hotline on 1800 020 283 and/or support@communitygrants.gov.au.

Source: Community Grants Hub 2018-11

Queensland irrigators encouraged to have their say on water prices

The Queensland Farmers’ Federation (QFF) will hold workshops across the state to encourage and assist Queensland irrigators to make submissions to the Queensland Competition Authority’s (QCA) investigation into the state’s irrigation schemes.

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QFF President Stuart Armitage encouraged irrigators and interested parties to take the opportunity to have their positions heard and make a submission.

“The QCA’s examination of water prices in SunWater and SEQWater irrigation schemes across the state will determine new prices for irrigators for the 2020-24 period,” Mr Armitage said.

“QFF is undertaking independent assessments of each bulk and distribution scheme’s costs and the pricing implications for Queensland’s irrigators.”

“Workshops are planned in a number of locations across Queensland over the coming weeks to present the cost analysis of each scheme to help irrigators prepare their submissions to the QCA.”

“It is essential that the QCA listens to and considers the concerns of Queensland irrigators’ regarding significant water price increases and contributing to dam safety infrastructure and flood management and monitoring services.”

Submissions to the QCA as part of the irrigation price review close Friday 22 February 2019 and can be made here: http://www.qca.org.au/submissions.

Workshops and dates

Mareeba Dimbulah – Friday 23 November

Eton – Tuesday 27 November
PVWater
Prosperine

Burdekin Haughton – Wednesday 28 November

Upper Burnett – Tuesday 4 December
Three Moon
Callide

Bundaberg – Wednesday 5 December
Lower Mary
Barker Barambah

Upper Condamine – Friday 7 December
Macintyre Brook

Source: QLD Farmers Federation 2018-11

Draft Gwydir Alluvium Water Resource Plan

The NSW Government has placed the Gwydir Alluvium Water Resource Plan (WRP) on public exhibition until Friday 14 December 2018 and is inviting feedback now.

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The purpose of this draft plan

The purpose of the Gwydir Alluvium WRP is to set out how NSW will meet its obligations under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan 2012 in the Gwydir Alluvium Water Resource Plan Area (WRPA).

A WRP must comply with the requirements of Chapter 10 of the Basin Plan 2012 for it to be accredited under Division 2 of Part 2 of the Water Act 2007.

Areas and water sources covered by the plan

The Gwydir Alluvium WRP covers groundwater within the main alluvial deposits associated with the Gwydir River from approximately 20 kilometres downstream of Copeton Dam, continuing north-west through Bingara to Biniguy through to approximately 45 kilometres west of Moree.

The Gwydir catchment covers approximately 26,600 square kilometres and represents approximately 2.4% of the Murray–Darling Basin.

This plan applies to all groundwater resources in the following groundwater sustainable diversion limit resource units (SDL resource units) within the Gwydir WRPA:

  • Lower Gwydir alluvium (GS24)
  • Upper Gwydir alluvium (GS43)

Groundwater within the Great Artesian Basin is not included in the Murray–Darling Basin water sources as the Commonwealth Water Act 2007 excludes it.

Attend a public information session

The NSW Department of Industry invites you to find out more about the WRP, its schedules and the submission process.

The following sessions are scheduled for the public exhibition of the WRP.

To register now please email gwydir.gw.wrp@dpi.nsw.gov.au and let us know which session you’ll attend.

Moree

Tuesday 4 December
10 am–1 pm
Moree Services Club,
Albert St, Moree

Bingara

Tuesday 4 December
3 pm–5 pm
Bingara Returned Servicemen’s Club,
46 Finch St, Bingara

Make a submission

You are invited to make a submission on the draft WRP through the online feedback form until Friday 14 December 2018. All submissions will be considered when finalising the plan.

Submissions close at 5 pm on Friday 14 December 2018.

Contact

For more information email gwydir.gw.wrp@dpi.nsw.gov.au

Source: NSW Department of Industry 2018-11

Buy a Bale proceeds for drought-affected farmers flow to first South Australian producers

Farmers in South Australia are some of the first to receive free hay from the Buy a Bale campaign, which helps drought-hit producers.

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For farmer Karl Zerner, the phone call from the Buy a Bale drought appeal was a lot to take in.

“It took me about 10 minutes for it to sink in. A lot of emotions, a lot of emotions,” he said.

Mr Zerner is one of the first farmers in South Australia to receive free hay from the Buy a Bale campaign, which helps drought-hit producers.

He said his Mount Mary property, two hours north of Adelaide, has suffered a season as bad as anyone could remember.

He and other farmers are dealing with the financial pressure of paying hundreds of dollars per bale to keep their stock fed and healthy.

That’s why, Mr Zerner said, it was such a relief when he found out he and other farmers would be receiving donations of hay to help get through the drought.

Mr Zerner and two other farmers in the Mount Mary area shared about 80 tonnes of hay that was delivered earlier this week.

“It’s phenomenal, it’s mind blowing. The people of Australia have helped to do this with their hard-earned money and their donations,” he said.

Mr Zerner’s cousin Brian is also a Mount Mary farmer and received about 27 bales from the Buy a Bale campaign.

He said he was surprised when he found out Buy a Bale would be coming to South Australia.

Australians have donated millions of dollars to charities offering to buy hay for farmers.

However, that’s led to concerns that charities were outbidding farmers for hay and inadvertently driving up the price of hay.

Mount Mary farmer Michael Drekow, who also received hay from Buy a Bale, said he didn’t think charities had distorted the market.

“I guess the frosts have been a blessing this year for us guys because a lot more hay has been cut than normal,” he said. “Like all things in nature it sort of balances out.”

Buy a Bale comes to South Australia

The bales were among the first to be unloaded in South Australia through Rural Aid’s Buy a Bale program.

Rural Aid general manager Wayne Thomson said the organisation’s focus had been on NSW.

“We have been delivering into South Australia for a couple of weeks,” he said, speaking with Deborah O’Callaghan on the South Australian Country Hour.

Rural Aid has donated hay to nine producers in the east of South Australia, including Mr Drekow and the Zerners.

Mr Thomson said Rural Aid planned to visit South Australia again in the next “week or two” and that there would be another drop of hay at Cowell on the Eyre Peninsula.

He encouraged farmers to apply online if they thought they needed help.

“We lost our mind-reading abilities in the last storm so we need farmers to put their hand up and say, ‘We need some help’,” he said.

No sitting around

While the Buy a Bale campaign has been well received, Karl Zerner came up with another way to source livestock feed cheaply.

He found out that a hay exporter was going to burn hay offal and chaff.

He said he couldn’t bear to see useable hay burnt during a drought, so he organised equipment and offered to clean out the shed.

“I went over and had a look and they were just going to burn that.

“I thought, ‘Well they can’t do this’. That night I organised a semi-trailer and a telehandler. I just couldn’t bear to see it all burned,” he said.

He then went on to clean out six other sheds, collecting about 130 tonnes of hay.

Mr Zerner kept some himself but also distributed some to his neighbours for the cost of transport and equipment.

He estimates if he were to buy 130 tonnes of hay, it would cost him about $32,000. He was able to clean out the sheds for about $16,000.

Source: ABC News 2018-11

New NSW irrigators’ council board ready for coming elections

The recent New South Wales Irrigators’ Council Annual General Meeting saw substantial changes following retirements.

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New Director and Chair of the Council Jim Cush has worked his entire working life in irrigation farming.

Born in Inverell and now based near Moree, Jim brings substantial experience to the leadership of the Council, and strong dedication to the irrigation cause.

Also new to the Board are Rachel Kelly from the Rice Growers Association and Brendan Barry from Murrumbidgee Private Diverters.

The six Directors on the Board were selected from our 26 members organisations which represent irrigators across New South Wales and range from the Border Rivers in the North, Coastal Valleys in the East, Lower Darling in the West and Murray in the South.

Jim said, “I am honoured to represent the 12,000 irrigators across New South Wales who grow the best food and fibre for Australians and the rest of the world.

Everyone who buys fruit, vegetables or nuts from their local supermarket has a connection to an irrigator and their community”.

Irrigators have been adapting to the conditions of the drought, coupled with the high costs of water and energy.

“Our NSW irrigators have innovated and modified our practices to achieve more with less, to look after our environment and our communities, so we can continue to produce the best quality food and fibre. Australia needs a strong irrigation sector; Australian people know that our methods are safe and are healthy” said Mr Cush.

With the NSW and Federal elections rapidly approaching, the NSW Irrigators’ Council is looking forward to seeing the policies of the political parties regarding irrigation and regional economies.

The NSWIC will soon unveil our NSWIC Election Policy Agenda and look to the response of the major and minor parties, as well as the independents.

Politicians that care about NSW jobs, our rural communities and in particular high quality and safely grown food and fibre, should adopt the NSWIC Election Policy Agenda.

For further information: Luke Simpkins – CEO NSW Irrigators’ Council 0410 976 919

Source: NSW Irrigators Council 2018-11

Sources include: ABC Rural, The Land, The Weekly Times, Stock and Land, Stock Journal, Bloomberg, Farm Online, Queensland Country Life

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