Social media challenge for farmers brings hope amid devastating floods

A new social media phenomenon is providing an uplifting change for farmers, amid the devastation of losing cattle to cyclones and floods.

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Key points:

  • Floraville Station in north-west Queensland is among the flood-hit properties taking part in the 10-Day Farming Family Challenge
  • Graziers taking part in the challenge are building a community on social media by sharing positive images
  • Dr Tim Driscoll from the Royal Flying Doctor Service says it can be helpful for people dealing with disasters to see stories of resilience

As part of the 10-Day Farming Family Challenge, graziers are uploading an image each day of a moment that has had an impact on them.

Kylie Camp is isolated by floodwater on Floraville Station in north-west Queensland’s Burke Shire, near the Gulf of Carpentaria, and has joined the challenge.

“In February we had the second biggest flood, with [the] majority of our dams still empty,” Ms Camp said.

“And now we’re cut off again.”

Workers on stations across the Gulf of Carpentaria have been dealing with grim conditions for feeder grass and dam levels as wet weather hits in patches.

Six days in, Floraville Station has been uploading photos of landscape shots and animals from the station including Brahman cattle, goats, guinea fowls and peacocks.

“I think the thing I like most about the station is the wide-open space,” Ms Camp said.

“There’s a lot of freedom in that.”

Building a community through social media is what draws Ms Camp to upload.

“I think if we can show some other people positive and real things that’s just great.”

Healing through sharing pictures

In the initial stages of a natural disaster, photos of devastation are immediately shared across social media and other platforms.

Tim Driscoll, from the Royal Flying Doctor Service, said that while disaster imagery was important in expressing just how much help was needed, it was just as vital to show the resilience of people working towards recovery.

“That’s where our focus needs to be,” Dr Driscoll said.

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel.”

Dr Driscoll also stressed that after devastation, it was sometimes encouraged to limit social media in order to avoid being “consumed” by images.

“We need a complete picture that things have been really hard, and then focus on moving forward,” he said.

“If the stories from 10-Day Farming Family Challenge are showing resilience, that can be really helpful for people.”

It is common to share stories of resilience following natural disasters, but Dr Driscoll said social media added another layer to the phenomenon.

Aussies love a good drop

People in outback Australia upload to social media as part of the ongoing discussion online about weather events.

Longreach grazier Jenny Gordon, who is an administrator for the Who Got the Rain Facebook page, which has almost 50,000 members nationally, said people’s moods could be detected from weather discussions.

“You can feel the atmosphere. Everyone is watching. Everyone is waiting,” Ms Gordon said.

With the arrival of autumn, graziers in northern Australia are holding their breath for their last chance of rain at the end of the wet season.

When any “rain event” happens, Ms Gordon receives a thousand photos a day.

She said it was a way to connect memories, smells, and the need to say “look at what’s happening!”.

“I feel suburban with my closest town a hundred kilometres away, but some have a six hour drive. It’s a way of connecting.”

Although the majority of photos are wholesome rain totals, Ms Gordon said photos that touched her the most were during north-west Queensland’s recent flooding disaster.

“If you go back to February, you had the joy of jumping in puddles to devastation on the other side. It’s good to see the lighter side coming out now.”

For 10-day challenger Kylie Camp on Floraville Station, the next photo will feature more family members working on the farm.

She said she must do her job as a mother and embarrass her children.

Source: ABC Rural

Irrigators deny breaking NSW pumping embargo after rainfall

NSW Natural Resources Access Regulator investigate claims that irrigators pumped water out of the river system during a recent embargo.

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New South Wales’ Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) says it is investigating claims that irrigators in the Namoi Valley pumped water out of the river system during a recent embargo.

Key points:

  • The NSW Department of Industry – Water gazetted an enforceable embargo on water pumping in Namoi Valley on Sunday
  • The water regulator says it received several complaints that pumps were operating after the embargo came into effect
  • The area’s industry group for irrigated agriculture said irrigators were not sent proper notification or communication of an official embargo

A voluntary pumping embargo was issued by the area’s industry group for irrigated agriculture, Namoi Water, following good rainfall in the valley last Sunday.

The NSW Government then gazetted an enforceable embargo later that day.

NRAR says it received several complaints that pumps were operating after the embargo came into effect, but Namoi Water said the allegations are unfounded and irrigators were never notified of the Government embargo.

Chief regulatory officer for the NRAR, Grant Barnes, said irrigators were made aware of the embargo conditions.

“NRAR has received reports of pumping in the Namoi Valley, near Tamworth, on Monday, April 1, after the embargo was officially communicated,” Mr Barnes said.

“We understand that communication had gone out to water users, and we reiterate it is the obligation of all users to ensure that they understand whether pumping is permitted at any time they turn the pumps on.”

Mr Barnes said in conducting the investigation the first step was to determine whether the water users should have reasonably known about the embargo prior to pumping.

‘Failure of Government, not irrigators’

Namoi Water has labelled the pumping allegations unjust, and said irrigators were not sent proper notification or communication of an official Government embargo.

While there were local radio announcements of the changes, Namoi Water executive officer Jon-Maree Baker said there was no other form of correspondence to irrigators.

Ms Baker also said there had never been an unregulated pumping embargo in the Namoi before, and irrigators in the valley were still yet to receive any formal notification of the pumping embargo.

“This is a failure of Government. This isn’t a failure of irrigators to adhere to a new condition that’s been applied as a temporary restriction. This is a failure of proper notification,” Ms Baker said.

“It’s not fair to prosecute irrigators for illegal pumping if they have not been properly notified.”

Ms Baker added that stock and domestic users were still allowed to pump during the embargo and that may explain why pumps were running after the embargo came into force.

She also said her organisation made members aware of the official embargo around midday on Monday, and she was not aware of anyone breaking the embargo once they knew about it.

“I find it extremely implausible that an irrigator would be illegally accessing flows in the Namoi now,” she said.

NSW Irrigators Council CEO Luke Simpkins also agreed that he found it hard to believe someone would knowingly do the wrong thing.

“Irrigation farmers want everybody doing the right thing and everyone operating under the same set of rules,” he said.

Source: ABC Rural

Australia swelters through the warmest March on record

Australia has sweltered through its hottest March on record with BOM reporting a national mean temperature of 2.13C above average.

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It was particularly warm in the Northern Territory and Western Australia, both of which posted their hottest March on record.

The national mean temperature was 2.13C above average inb March. (AAP)

Hottest March on record (BoM)

It was among the six warmest for NSW, Queensland and South Australia.

In Rabbit Flat, northwest of Alice Springs, temperatures reached at least 39C for 115 straight days between December 1 and March 25 – smashing the previous record of 106 days at Marble Bar in WA in 1921-22.

“A cold outbreak brought a cool end to the month, particularly in southeastern Australia, with thundery showers, light to moderate rainfall, small hail, and scattered snow about the higher peaks,” the report said.

Rainfall for March was above-average for large areas of eastern Australia and parts of the west, partly thanks to tropical cyclones Trevor and Veronica.

A Climate Council report released in early March showed temperature extremes over the past three months, which was the hottest summer on record.

Port Augusta in South Australia reached a record breaking 49.5 degrees Celsius in January, while every state experienced serious bushfires and Townsville broke its 10-day accumulated rainfall total.

More than 200 extreme weather records were broken in 90 days across the nation.

Climate councillor and former NSW Fire and Rescue commissioner Greg Mullins said firefighters were struggling to cope with unprecedented lightning storms which have sparked blazes across the nation.

“We’re seeing across Australia far longer fire seasons. A lot more very high-to-extreme bushfire danger. Forests are burning where they shouldn’t burn,” he said.

Source: Irrigation Australia

Budget contains drought support, trade assistance and disaster relief

Billions of dollars will be allocated to natural disaster response as part of the 2019-20 Budget, and farmers can expect a boost.

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Key points:

  • Government commits $3.9 billion to Emergency Response Fund
  • Farm Household Allowance eligibility to be extended
  • $30 million to boost trade access to foreign markets

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg used his pre-election Budget to announce a $3.9 billion Emergency Response Fund.

Mr Frydenberg said the fund would “ensure additional resourcing is available to support future natural disaster recovery efforts”.

The Coalition expects to establish the fund in October by rebadging the dormant, Rudd-era, Education Investment Fund.

New legislation is required to determine how and when the funds can be accessed.

Farm spending

The 2019–20 Budget has also committed $29.4 million over four years to enhance Australia’s agricultural exports.

The package includes money to increase market access, improve access to plant genetics for the horticulture sector and more than $11 million to minimise the impact of non-tariff trade barriers.

The Government has also expanded access to an instant asset write-off, increasing the limit from $25,000 to $35,000.

It means any business with an annual turnover of up to $50 million will be eligible.

Farm labour

Despite senior Nationals ministers giving their support for an agriculture-specific visa last year, there was no funding for it in this year’s Budget.

Farmers have long argued Australian produce is going unharvested due to a lack of on-farm workers, and some say it has led to an increase of illegal farm workers.

However, the Government announced a 12-month pilot that it said would address seasonal worker shortages in three selected regions, known for farm worker shortages.

It also committed $24 million to incentivise Australians to take up seasonal work opportunities, by expanding the existing Harvest Labour Service and committed $1.9 million, over four years, to develop a National Agriculture Workforce Strategy.

It follows recent announcements about changes to expand regional skilled and backpacker visas.

The National Farmers’ Federation call for a comprehensive national drought policy has been ignored in this year’s Budget.

However, the Government has committed more than $3 million to increase access to the Farm Household Allowance.

The changes mean, from July 1, farmers who put the income from the forced sale of livestock into a Farm Management Deposit, will have the proceeds exempt from an income means test to access the assistance.

Currently there are fewer than 6,300, of more than 85,000 Australian farming families, who access the fortnightly Farm Household Allowance payments.

The 2019-20 budget also includes a $5 million grant for the Country Women’s Association to help farmers and families that experience hardship due to drought, and $4.2 million to maintain a National Drought Map.

The Bureau of Meteorology will benefit from $28 million over four years to install new radars and rain gauges in Queensland.

Earlier this year, the Government legislated a $3.9 billion Future Drought Fund, funded off-budget, to set aside $100 million a year for drought-preparedness.

Labor has also committed to spend $100 million a year on drought, if elected.

Biodiversity

One of the largest agriculture-specific spends of 2019-20 budget is a $30 million pilot program to recognise and incentivise biodiversity on farms.

A methodology is yet to be determined.

The Government has also committed $4 million to a biodiversity certificate scheme, which would seek to establish a market for biodiversity credits.

The commitment has generally been welcomed by farmers and has in-principle support from the Opposition.

Dairy code

This year’s Budget, for the first time, outlines spending for the already-announced mandatory dairy industry code of conduct.

The Government will spend $8.7 million over 11 years on the code, which is designed to address an imbalance of power between farmers and processors.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is expected to enforce the code, which is currently being established with input from the industry, and will come into effect on July 1, 2020.

Biosecurity

A contentious new Biosecurity Imports Levy, initially expected to be charged on shipping containers, has been delayed by three months.

The levy, announced in last year’s budget, was expected to commence on July 1, but this year’s Budget shows the start date has been extended until September.

The delay, which the Government will use to consult further on the design of the levy, is expected to cut revenue by $20 million.

An increase in biosecurity funding had strong support from farmers, but transport, logistics and shipping companies have called for the levy to be axed.

Source: ABC Rural

Water crisis may wipe out Australia’s rice crop

Australia faces a severe decline in rice production due to water being desperately scarce and expensive, with the harvest now under way.

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Rice growers warn that with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority predicting little or no new water allocations for irrigators if the drought does not break, in coming months some varieties of Australian rice might no longer be available on supermarket shelves.

The developments come as the growers battle the MDBA, claiming its management of big flows to supply South Australia wasted a huge amount of water through losses along the flow which will further cut their potential allocations.

Having averaged about 700,000 tonnes in recent years, this year’s crop is expected to be just 50,000 tonnes, the second-lowest since the 1930s.

With rice worth on average $500 a tonne, this represents a ­decline in agricultural production of more than $300 million.

Ricegrowers Association of Australia president Jeremy Morton said only about a tenth of rice farmers had put in a crop this year, because they had received zero water allocations from the MDBA in the Murray Valley, and only a 7 per cent allocation in the Murrumbidgee.

“There is almost no rice crop in the Murray Valley,” Mr Morton said.

Although water for irrigation can be bought on the open market at $500 to $550 per megalitre, it is double what it cost about a year ago and five to 10 times what it costs in a good year.

“If you had to buy that water, you would lose money, and plenty of it,” said Mr Morton, who has himself not put in rice this season on his property near Moulamein in the NSW Riverina.

The small crop would sharply reduce rice farmers’ incomes, and flow through the regional economy with agricultural job losses and reduced shifts at the two mills.

“It’s not as if they are not choosing to grow rice and growing something else,” Mr Morton said.

“It has a massive impact right through the community.”

Mr Morton said that in coming months, if the drought continued, “you might not be able to buy an Australian long-grained rice”.

The ricegrowers association issued a release yesterday highly critical of the MDBA over how it managed large-scale flows to South Aus­tralia.

It followed a report issued by the authority that admitted much greater than usual losses of water through evaporation, soaking into the soil, and leaking pipes.

“This report confirms our worst fears with a 39 per cent increase in losses when compared to similar years,” the ricegrowers release said.

“What is plainly obvious is that losses are increasing and that is impacting on water available for allocation and this is not acceptable.”

A spokeswoman for the MDBA said the current water year is “particularly challenging”, with record low inflows into the Murray, ongoing drought conditions, and heatwaves over summer.

“Because of high demand for water this year, and low inflows from NSW and Victorian tributaries, a large volume of water had to be transferred from Hume Dam to Lake Victoria near the South Australian border,” the spokeswoman said.

“That meant high river flows over spring and into summer, and required water to be channelled through the Barmah-Millewa Forest, bypassing the Barmah Choke, so we could get water into Lake Victoria in time to meet periods of high demand.”

“The period of higher flows was kept as short as possible.”

As reported last week, the total amount of water stored in the Murray–Darling Basin’s dams has dropped below 30 per cent for the first time in three years.

Rice is only one of the crops facing reduced production.

The chief executive of the NSW Irrigators Council, Luke Simpkins, said: “We are going to see less than 10 per cent of land cropped in the north.”

Given the pressure on farmers and rural communities, the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party in NSW, which won three lower house seats at the state election, has called for a five-year “pause” in the basin plan which involves progressive increases in environmental flows.

Source: Irrigation Australia

Grape yields down by up to 50 per cent for SA wine grape growers

Some of South Australia’s wine grape growers have seen their yields halve, as hot, dry conditions take their toll on some of the state’s wine regions.

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Key points:

  • Growers and winemakers say they haven’t seen hot, dry conditions like this since 1982
  • At one winery in Port Lincoln, 50 per cent of the crop was lost in a matter of hours on one 48-degree day in January
  • Despite the low yields, most growers say what’s left is of the highest quality they could ask for

However, many grape growers have reported being happy with the quality of the wines in spite of, or perhaps even because of, the tough conditions.

Clare Valley Wine and Grape Association executive officer Tania Matz said fans of Clare Valley wines should put in orders as soon as possible to avoid missing out, because there would not be much around.

“We’re estimating yields to be down 30–40 per cent on some varieties,” Ms Matz said.

“More susceptible varieties will be a much higher percentage down on last year, but overall we’re reporting we’re about 30–40 per cent down on average.”

Jim Barry Wines winemaker Tom Barry said there was little moisture in the soil due to the lack of rain over the past 12 months, which created problems for growers.

“It’s had a huge effect after a very dry winter and dry spring as well. There’s not a lot of subsoil moisture for the grapes to grow but the fruit we’ve had so far is really good,” he said.

“Riesling is really sturdy, that might only be 20 per cent down. Shiraz and cabernet were between 30 and 40 per cent down.

Mr Barry said the talk around older grape growers, like his father Peter, is that no-one has seen dry conditions in Clare like this since 1982.

However, Mr Barry said vintages like this were the reason his family business invested in the Coonawarra region in the state’s south east 20 years ago.

“Really we went down for seasons like this where Clare has a small crop, but Coonawarra has had plenty of rain and that’s going to be looking really, really good,” he said.

In the Barossa, Yalumba head of winemaking Louisa Rose said yields were down about 20 per cent, but that recent vintages had been very good.

“Since 2015 we’ve had some higher-than-average yields and the quality has been good as well, so this may be the correction we needed to have.”

Winemakers must wear losses

In the Clare Valley, Stone Bridge Wines owner Craig Thompson said he had seen all the water sources on his properties dry up.

“We’ve got three dams across a couple of vineyards and we have had no water in them over [last] winter,” he said.

“The bores looked okay until mid-January, then they started slowing down and then [there was] no flow at all for us there.”

Mr Thompson said his riesling vines handled the heat a lot better than his shiraz plantings, which he called a “sooky grape”.

However, he said consumer demand for shiraz outweighed the difficulty in growing it in dry conditions.

“A lot more people drink shiraz than riesling even though riesling does well and we’re the riesling capital of Australia, but shiraz is what many people drink,” he said.

Despite the downturn in yields, Mr Thompson said winemakers could not just put up their prices to recoup the losses.

Just four hours to cut yield in half

For Port Lincoln’s Boston Bay Wines it was only a matter of hours, not days, that saw up to 50 per cent of the crop diminished.

Winery manager Tony Ford said they suffered during the extreme heatwave in January and, despite doing everything they could in the lead-up, the grapes just could not handle the heat.

“We were given plenty of warning that it was going to be full-on. I think Port Augusta broke the state record that day and we got to 48 degrees here in Port Lincoln,” he said.

“We watered and we put on some sun protection and we had the bottom of the vines all fluffy and not radiating it back up as much as it could.

Mr Ford said the riesling was the hardest hit.

“That had quite a bit of liquid in it at that stage and wasn’t far off from being picked and we probably lost a good 60 per cent of that, which is heartbreaking,” he said.

“The sauvignon blanc handled it a little bit better and we maybe lost 20 per cent of that.

“And the reds, that didn’t have a very good flowering to start with, were three or four weeks behind with moisture in the berries, so they handled it quite well,” Mr Ford said.

Quality on the way

Mr Ford said, despite the low yields, the grapes that were picked were of the highest quality he could ask for. He said it was because there were not as many grapes left on the vines.

“Some wineries might ask vineyards to drop fruit up to six weeks out, so they actually will cut off perfectly good grapes just so the vine concentrates and really puts the effort into the remaining grapes,” he said.

“So in effect, because it was sort of a month before we picked, those berries dried off and died and so the same principle applies.

“This is exactly what happened in 2014 when we won the Wine State Riesling of the Year, it was the ugliest fruit we have ever picked, but we are not in a photography competition, we are after the juice and that is what the winemaker can work with.

Also in Port Lincoln, Peter Teakle Wines lost some yield during the high 40-degree days, but viticulturalist Andrew Blackberry said their location helped to protect the grapes a bit from the heat.

“Our riesling was also the big one affected for us, but the rest fared quite alright because we had enough canopy there to shade the fruit from sunburn or anything like that,” Mr Blackberry said.

“But compared to areas like around Adelaide, who were on average down about 40 per cent, we did okay with only a drop of about 15 per cent and our quality is still going to be really good.”

Source: ABC Rural

Murray–Darling Basin Authority Communique

At its meeting on 2-3 April 2019 in Canberra, the Murray–Darling Basin Authority reinforced its commitment to collaboration on the Basin Plan.

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The Authority noted with concern reports of growing tensions about water issues including at times disrespectful behaviour and even bullying of individuals within some Basin communities. They stressed the importance of sustaining respectful dialogue noting all want the best outcome for their communities and all voices need to be heard.

With water storages in the Basin sitting at 30 per cent capacity, Authority members committed to regular communication with Basin communities in the approach to the new water year and to working closely with jurisdictions to monitor water usage and manage reserves with care. The north of the Basin has very little water compared with the southern Basin but next water year will be heavily reliant on good inflows over winter and spring. The current demand for water in the River Murray system is easing, allowing the focus to return to the conservation of water as dry conditions persist. The Authority noted the publication of the MDBA’s assessment of 2018-19 conveyance losses which were experienced largely in the course of delivering allocations to communities and agricultural businesses.

The Authority was briefed extensively on state government progress on submitting water resource plans for assessment by the MDBA. They considered in detail the draft plans for the NSW Border Rivers, Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, Gwydir and the Macquarie–Castlereagh catchments in New South Wales. Members noted publication of the March quarterly progress report, and highlighted the need for all states to sustain their high level of effort to meet this year’s deadline for finalisation of all water resources plans.

Members were briefed on the MDBA’s work with the states to ensure structured and culturally appropriate consultation with Traditional Owners in the course of developing water resource plans. They stressed the importance of jurisdictions setting aside sufficient time for Traditional Owners to consider each plan fully and in accordance with the intent of the Basin Plan. The MDBA is providing additional resources to facilitate consultation and ensure proper regard is given to Aboriginal water management objectives.

The Authority also emphasised the need for state governments to meet their commitment to protect environmental water as a measure that complements implementation of the water resource plans. Members welcomed the briefing by state officials about the Victorian framework for protection of water for the environment. Discussions are continuing about how to reflect the framework appropriately in the Victorian water resource plans.

The Authority also welcomed the opportunity to discuss the process of bringing floodplain harvesting into water use accounting by state governments, with New South Wales officials providing details about the state’s progress to date, including measures to monitor compliance with Basin Plan requirements. The Authority stressed the importance of community confidence that the water resource plans accurately reflect the limits to floodplain harvesting and that those limits are complied with. The Authority also noted the strong cooperation between the MDBA, New South Wales and Queensland officials on progressing these important and challenging issues.

Professor Rob Vertessy, chair of ACSEES, reported to Authority members on the Independent Assessment of the 2018-19 fish deaths in the Lower Darling.  The final report was provided to the Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources at the end of March. Professor Vertessy also outlined the panel’s plans to travel to Menindee after the report’s release to discuss the findings and recommendations with the community. The Authority received a briefing on the key findings and recommendations and noted the minister’s intention to issue the report publicly.

The extensive level of consultation and engagement in water discussions at the community level by members of the Basin Community Committee (BCC) was greatly appreciated by Authority members. The BCC chair, Mr Rory Treweeke, noted the strength of commitment to gathering and reflecting local perspectives, which Authority members agreed was of critical importance during challenging times of low water availability.

The Authority welcomed a presentation by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, with Ms Jody Swirepik highlighting some of the recent benefits of water for the environment. This includes supporting the successful re-introduction of the threatened Murray hardyhead to Little Frenchman’s Creek in NSW, and providing nursery habitat in the Murray estuary for juvenile Black bream that spawned in summer 2018 and continue to thrive. Environmental water was also successfully used over summer to reduce the risk of further fish deaths in the lower Murrumbidgee River.

The Authority noted the challenges with delivering water to the environment this year, which resulted in key needs in the River Murray and Coorong not being met. This is likely to pose a risk to achieving outcomes again in future years.

The Authority was updated about the progress in assessing the implementation of Prerequisite Policy Measures which account for environmental water more effectively and ensure it can be used more effectively. Basin states need to ensure Prerequisite Policy Measures are in place by 30 June 2019. The MDBA is assessing state progress in implementing the measures and will publish a report documenting the findings and outlining the ongoing work program to continue to improve environmental water management.

An update was provided on the 2017-18 trial report into compliance with the sustainable diversion limits (SDLs) using the new SDL accounting framework for the Basin Plan. There is a progressive shift towards the new framework in preparation for the 2019-20 water year when the SDLs become enforceable. The Authority was briefed on the independent review that is assessing the framework’s robustness against internationally recognised criteria as well as criteria best suited to Murray–Darling Basin conditions. The Authority welcomed the assurance to be provided by the review that SDL accounting used by the MDBA would be a credible and transparent process, and emphasised the need for Basin states to maintain open lines of communication with their stakeholders.

An update was provided to the Authority on MDBA commitments to boost compliance in the Basin, including the imminent publication of the Water Trade Price Reporting Audit report. Members were advised that there are currently no formal investigations underway by the MDBA, however there are 17 active cases that have been referred by the MDBA to Basin state agencies for further investigation, eight of which are in New South Wales, six in Queensland and three in Victoria. More information about compliance is available on MDBA website.

The Authority also welcomed the recent recruitment of an MDBA regional engagement officer, Richard Unsworth, in the Menindee–Lower Darling region of New South Wales. The appointment will be an important point of contact for local people at an area that has been heavily affected by the drought and by the fish deaths during the summer months.

The next meeting of the Authority is scheduled for 7-8 May 2019.

Source: MDBA

NSW new water metering rules now apply

The first tranche of metering requirements commenced 1 April 2019 to improve the standard and coverage of non-urban metering.

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A robust new metering framework to improve the standard and coverage of non-urban water meters across NSW commenced on 1 December 2018.

The NSW government committed to this framework under the Water Reform Action Plan.

The framework will be implemented through a staged roll-out over five years. The framework will be reviewed after five years to assess its performance against the objectives.

Policy, Regulation and Act

The metering framework includes:

The policy explains the requirements of the new framework. The Act and regulation give legal effect to the new framework.

The first tranche of metering requirements commenced 1 April 2019

A number of new metering requirements commenced on 1 April 2019:

  • all new and replacement meters installed from 1 April 2019 on works that are required to have a meter need to meet the new meter standards
  • duly qualified persons need to use new validation and design certificates
  • there is a streamlined process for faulty metering equipment and a new offence for failing to report faulty metering equipment within 24 hours
  • users with surface water works that are marked as inactive will not require a meter
  • mandatory Maintenance Specifications for meters have been updated
  • mandatory Data Logging and Telemetry Specifications have been published

The fact sheet ‘New requirements begin from 1 April 2019 (PDF 972.7 KB)‘ provides more information about what these requirements mean for water users.

When do the rest of the requirements start?

The metering framework is being rolled out in a staged manner over five years.

The next stage commences on 1 December 2019, when all surface water pumps 500mm and above will need to have a meter that meets the new standards.

Water users who are required to comply with these requirements will be contacted by the department well in advance to ensure they are prepared before the roll out date.

Metering tool

A metering tool to help water users work out whether they need a meter and what meter standards apply will be available here soon.

Fact sheets

  • Overview of new requirements– this fact sheet provides a general overview of the new metering requirements
  • Preparing for the roll-out dates– this fact sheet provides guidance for water users with existing meters
  • New requirements begin on 1 April 2019 (PDF 972.7 KB)– this fact sheet provides information about the metering requirements that commenced 1 April 2019, including new and replacement meters, faulty meters and inactive works.
  • Industry guide – works requiring a meter– this guide provides an estimate on the number of meters, and meter sizes, that will need to be installed under the new framework
  • Frequently Asked Questions– provides answers to commonly asked questions from water users about the new non-urban water metering framework
  • Glossary of terms– this list provides simple definitions to terms used when talking about the non-urban water metering framework, regulation and policy
  • Financial assistance– provides information about loans, subsidies and other assistance that are available to water users which may help reduce the financial burden of installing required metering equipment, especially under current drought conditions

Pattern-approved meters

The Murray–Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) has published a list of pattern approved ‘non-urban’ water meters.

Duly qualified persons

Water users must use a duly qualified person to carry out certain work in relation to their metering equipment, including meter installation, certain maintenance requirements, validation and checking the accuracy of an existing meter.

A duly qualified person is a person with the qualifications, skills or expertise to work on metering equipment, as specified in clause 236 of the regulation. A summary of the qualifications, skills or experience required by duly qualified persons is in Attachment E of the policy.

Specifications

Maintenance specifications

The Maintenance Specifications 2019 set out the maintenance that needs to be carried out in relation to metering equipment, the frequency of maintenance and whether the maintenance needs to be carried out by a duly qualified person or if it can be carried out by the holder of the approval or licence.

These specifications apply to all meters that are subject to the new metering conditions.

The specifications have been updated to clarify that the maintenance requirements for open channel meters are to be carried out every 12 months or more frequently to ensure that metering equipment is operating accurately and correctly.

Telemetry

Users with surface water pumps 500mm and above, and users who install a new or replacement meter on a surface water work (except pumps less than 200mm) need to be telemetry compliant by 1 December 2019.

All other users with surface water works (except pumps less than 200mm) need to be telemetry compliant by the regional roll-out date.

Government has published mandatory data logging and telemetry specifications.

If you are required to install a meter with a data logger or telemetry, it must comply with these specifications.

The data logging and telemetry specifications (PDF 148.8 KB) set out the requirements for collecting, recording storing and transmitting data. They make the necessary capabilities of metering equipment clear for you, meter and telemetry providers, and duly qualified persons.

More information about telemetry and the Data Logging and Telemetry Specifications 2019 is now available.

Faulty meters

From 1 April 2019, water users must report faulty metering equipment within 24 hours to WaterNSW. It is an offence for water users to fail to report. The fact sheet ‘New requirements begin on 1 April 2019 (PDF 972.7 KB)‘ contains more information about the new process.

Source: NSW.GOV

CEWH – Trade Intentions for remainder of 2018-19

The CEWH has stated it: “has no plans to buy or sell allocations in the April to June period; or to buy or sell permanent entitlements the remainder of 2018-19.”

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Trade intentions – April 2019

Commercial trade

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder has no plans to either buy or sell allocations in the April to June period; or to buy or sell permanent entitlements in the remainder of 2018-19.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office is constantly reviewing decisions about the management of its portfolio across catchments in the Basin, to ensure environmental outcomes are optimised. Consideration is given to the water available to meet both current and future environmental needs. Additionally these decisions are influenced by current climatic conditions, as well as implications of trade for communities.

Large parts of the Basin are currently experiencing pressures from water scarcity, with low storage levels and rainfall deficiencies particularly evident in the northern catchments. While dry conditions are a natural component of Australia’s environment, water is still required to protect the health of the rivers, floodplains and wetlands of the Basin.

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office will provide information to the water market prior to undertaking any trading action, based on decisions by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

Carryover into 2019-20

The Commonwealth environmental water holdings operate under the same carryover rules as equivalent water accounts managed by consumptive water entitlement holders. Access to carryover allows the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder to maintain sufficient water in accounts to undertake environmental watering actions in seasonally optimal times, while ensuring no third party impacts on other entitlement holders.

At the end of February, carryover against the Commonwealth’s regulated southern-connected basin entitlement into the 2019-20 water year is forecast to be up to 500 gigalitres. The maximum allowable carryover within state carryover rules against these entitlements is 1009 gigalitres.

Northern Basin Carryover

In the northern basin, most catchments have continuous accounting rules, and there are no carryover limits applied at the end of a water year. These rules are designed to provide a large capacity for carryover because inflows and allocations are more variable than in the south of the Basin. In northern catchments a large proportion of the total flows occur in a small number of years with many years having extremely low flows. This characteristic means an important consideration for environmental water managers is to ensure that environmental reserves are carried over to provide sufficient volumes to avoid damage should there be extended dry conditions. Under multiple dry years carryover is progressively reduced.

Given the environmental needs of the northern Basin, low allocations in 2018-19 and the water restriction policies currently in place in northern New South Wales catchments, there is anticipated to be very low volumes of Commonwealth environmental water carried over into the 2019-20 water year in the northern Basin.

Source: Department of the Environment and Energy

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

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