The head of Australia’s national irrigators council has called Adelaide authorities to look seriously at options, to reduce the city’s water take from the Murray River.
National Irrigators Council chief executive Steve Whan was part of a panel, looking at the Productivity Commission’s report on the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
“It frustrates South Australian irrigators that they have pulled their weight, in finding water, but Adelaide has not,” Mr Whan said.
He said the South Australian capital had an allowance of 170Gigalitres a year, although it did not always take that full amount.
“When you look at the fact the ACT is contributing to the efficiency measures, and other industries and communities all down the river are doing that too, we also want to see it happening in Adelaide,” Mr Whan said.
“We need to see Adelaide having a serious look at the options for reducing their take from the Murray, whether that’s through the desalination plant, which is expensive, obviously, or through water reductions.”
Mr Whan was part of a Committee for Economic Development for Australia panel, which also heard a presentation from the Productivity Commission’s Water Commissioner, Professor Jane Doolan, on its recent Basin plan report.
Mr Whan said South Australia should also examine options for the Coorong, which didn’t just involved pushing water down the Murray River.
“How much that goes down to the bottom, and really makes a difference?”
Mr Whan supported comments by the Commission timelines for the implementation of efficiency measures for the implementation of the 405GL of environmental downwater may need to be adjusted.
State governments are responsible for the SDL offset projects, which will involve upgrades to infrastructure or river operations, allowing water to move more efficiently.
That would mean the volume required for the environment would be reduced, lessening the need to cut back irrigation entitlements.
“It’s looking very difficult to achieve the 450Gl of efficiency measures by 2024, just as it is looking very difficult to get the 605GL in the supply measures,” he said.
“I suspect if you extend the timeframe for one, you have to extend the timeframe for the other.
“It becomes politically unacceptable to do one, and not the other.”
He said irrigators didn’t want the government coming back, in 2024, and seeking to buy more water.
“I have certainly heard talk before, about extending the timeframe for the 450GL,” he said.
“There is a temptation, from an irrigator point of view, to say ‘no, stop it, if you haven’t got it, you can’t get it’ but I suspect the politics, in the long term, will make that difficult.”
Prof Doolan said there may be a case for extending timelines
“We believe, in some cases, the timeframe is not helping a successful outcome,” Prof Doolan said.
“It can it can hinder, in making governments rush, simply because they have promised to do something and that can result in a poor outcome.
She said while it was not an excuse not to finish the work, it was important there were credible timeframes.
“Communities can have certainty the process is being done properly,” Professor Doolan said.
Communities could then be confident there was adequate time to develop the additional water recovery projects.
‘You can pace it, so you get a successful outcome.
“We are not saying extend the timeframes for everything, but we are saying look at each piece of work and aim for a credible time frame, which will get you a successful outcome.”
She said a successful outcome was more important than meeting a deadline.