The rain offset the dry start to spring, but more was now needed to top up catchments, H20X Business Development Manager Craig Feuerherdt said.
“Some of that rain helped irrigators to the order of one or two megalitres. That’s a big saving when it falls out of the sky for nothing,” Mr Feuerherdt said.
It had been a challenging season, so far, with large areas of the Murray Darling Basin recieving record December rainfall.
“This rain made harvest of winter crops difficult but bolstered soil moisture enough to generate some good inflows,” Mr Feuerherdt said.
“The rainfall was a mixed blessing for those growing summer crops – either making it difficult to get onto paddocks, drowning newly emerged crops or providing welcomed pre-soaking.”
The rain saw prices fall dramatically, with the Murray dipping below $100 a megalitre (ML) Murrumbidgee in the low $100’s and Goulburn in the high $60’s.
“Since then, prices have recovered and are stable around $115/ML in the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions while Goulburn is around $75/ML,” he said.
The irrigation season was currently being driven by cotton and rice growers.
Most irrigators now had what they needed on hand, to sustain them for the next few months.
‘What we have seen in the trade, up until Christmas, is people getting themselves sorted out,” he said.
At this stage, H2OX estimated about 1,100GL of water would remain unused at the end of the 2017-18 season.
“Depending on how the current La Nina plays out, this may be a handy buffer for irrigators going into the 2018-19 irrigation season, especially given the state of major storages.
“The volume of water in storage in Murray Darling Basin storages is approximately 15pc lower than the same time last year.”
Dartmouth was the only storage to be holding more water than a year ago.
“It will go up and down but 1000GL is not that much, when you spread it across the Southern Connected Basin,” he said.
Goulburn usage was at an estimated 64pc of the predicted use modelled by H2OX in October.
“The effect of Goulburn accounts linked to Murray properties is minuscule with just over 10GL of allocation being metered to date,” Mr Feuerherdt said.
The wet November had also delayed plantings in the NSW Murray, with farmers unable to sow crops.
“NSW Murray have used an estimated 25pc of the modelled water use this season,” he said.
That could also be affected by delays in meter reading.
The weekend’s predicted hot weather was not likely to see an increase in irrigation, rather a change in timing.
“People will try and water around it, they don’t want water lying on ground when it’s so hot.”