Waterpool chief executive Peter Lawford said prices reached $325/ML, last season, with a weighted average of $214 for the season.
He said the price was now sitting around $100/ML, as the start of the irrigation season had been delayed by several months.
“We’ve done a reasonable amount of trading, considering the seasonal conditions,” Mr Lawford said.
Drier conditions in the last few weeks had seen buyers moving back into the market,
He said while general markets were somewhat slow, Waterpool’s volume was up 20 per cent, on last year.
Some water was being used now, while other irrigators were looking to buy water for later in the season.
Aither director Chris Olszak said the contrast in water prices, with this time, last year could not be more stark.
“This was pretty much exactly the time last year, when allocation prices took off in the southern basin,” Mr Olszak said.
“We had a very dry spring and a week of 40 degree temperatures in Mildura, so the average monthly price, for November was around $275/ML.”
“We are well below that this year, because of the very high winter spring rainfall event, across the system; it’s done two things, boosted allocations for the water in storage for irrigators to use, but also helped manage demand, as the dairy farmers haven’t had to do much irrigating through winter and spring.”
Mr Olszak said the price of water from the Murrumbidgee system had dropped as low as $30/ML, but had since climbed back to around $70-80/ML.
Below the Barmah Choke water was trading at $100-110/ML.
“Where we go from here depends on the rainfall outlook – if we have a dry summer, prices could continue to climb, but they are not going to get back to where they were, last year,” Mr Olszak said.
Rochester dairy farmer Tom Acocks said delaying the start of the irrigation system had been a big help.
But he said the very wet winter and early spring had lead to paddock damage, which meant some pasture and crops could now not be irrigated.
“People would rather have paddocks they could still irrigate, rather than having ones which were completely wrecked from a wet winter,” Mr Acocks said.
“We have 50hectares of ryegrass we would still be growing, but it is completely stuffed, because of the wet winter.”
He said the biggest issue was keeping the water price at a steady level, for a prolonged period of time. “Fluctuations are no good to anyone.”
“We did see it as low as $65/ML, a few weeks back, but there are people coming back into the market,” Mr Acocks said.
“There is a lot of water being offered for sale at $120/ML and buyers wanting to pay $80, so it is not being purchased. “It is a bit of a stalemate, but if people have an allocation, they can use it and they won’t head to the temporary market.”
Meanwhile, the Victorian Farmers Federation (VFF) has welcomed an announcement by the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) it would consider changes to the plan, following the Northern Basin Review.
VFF Water Council chair Richard Anderson said the MDBA’s latest update showed the basin plan is a work in progress. “The Murray Darling Basin Plan was conceived with knowledge that a review and revision of the plan throughout the seven year implementation period would be necessary,” Mr Anderson said.
“We know the MDBA got a few things wrong; we’ve been telling them for years.
“ What we have now, that we didn’t have before. is the evidence and experience from plan implementation to support our arguments.”
Mr Anderson made clear the VFF’s expectations for the southern basin.
“It is our understanding that any changes made to northern basin recovery targets will not impact southern basin targets,” he said.
“It is our expectation that the basin plan in the south will come under the same scrutiny as the north.” He said recent flood events put in question the ability of the MDBA to deliver set flow targets, without causing significant damage to private and public assets.