In a submission to the Federal Parliamentary Water Use Efficiency inquiry, the GBCMA said the Farm Water Program (FWP) had delivered 100 gigalitres (GL) of savings.
“The GBCMA believes that it is critical that the Commonwealth Government continue to co-invest in improved water use efficiency on farms to ensure irrigators can adapt to the negative impacts from implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan,” the submission said.
It estimated there was still more than 50,000 hectares of irrigated land, across the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID), where farm infrastructure could be rehabilitated.
“A new program needs to be established to continue the investment (on a reasonable private-public cost share basis) to irrigators to increase water use efficiency and productivity without a transfer of water share,” the submission said.
Water Minister Lisa Neville confirmed the FWP was on hold, with $30 million still to be spent under the Victorian Farm Management Program (VFMP).
Ms Neville said Victoria had been concerned about the impact of the requirement of entitlement transfer from the district, so commissioned work to better understand it.
“The funding is held by the Commonwealth and available for water recovery in Victoria for the Basin plan, which has helped improve water efficiency and avoided the Commonwealth buying further water back for the environment.”
But Kotta farmer and Rochester-Campaspe Water Services Committee (WSC) member Andrew Christian said involvement in the FWP had transformed his once rudimentary farm irrigation layout into a best practice fast flood system.
Water flow rates had increased from four Megalitres (ML) to 16ML and application times reduced from 10 days to 48 hours.
Mr Christian said the GBCMA was to be commended on a program that had continually delivered social, economic and environmental benefits.
“Any proposed alternate program, that doesn't return water to the environment, cannot achieve the triple bottom line and would be flying in the face of what is being implemented by the Commonwealth,” Mr Christian said.
“Victorian Water Minister Lisa Neville should disregard borders and release the remaining funding of $30 million dollars for the greater good, and the sustainability, of the Murray Darling Basin”.