Latest water figures should allay fears, says broker

New figures show only a slight increase in untied irrigation water

Water
LATEST FIGURES: Water broker H20X chief executive Lex Batters says the latest figures from the Victorian Water Register come as no surprise.

LATEST FIGURES: Water broker H20X chief executive Lex Batters says the latest figures from the Victorian Water Register come as no surprise.

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The amount of water, not tied to land, increased by only five per cent last year.

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Latest figures from the Victorian Water Register should allay fears speculators are taking a significant share of allocations, according to a leading Victorian water broker.

H2OX chief executive Lex Batters said information on market trends since 2015 showed the amount of water not tied to land increased by only five per cent, to 12pc, last year.

Before 2015, it varied between five and seven per cent.

He said the data released in the latest "Trends in Northern Victorian Water Trade 2001-2018" indicated most of the water shares, not linked to land, were likely to be held by farmers.

"I think the concern people have about investors in the water market is somewhat overblown," Mr Batters said.

"Farmers still hold most of the water, whether attached to land or not - the amount going to non-water users is still comparatively small, in the scheme of things.

"It's pretty close to where we thought it was."

He said some investors, such as Duxton, were both producers and water holders.

The report found 40pc of water allocated to shares was moved to another account at a cost of zero dollars, likely for farmer-owner use.

The register authors found shares may be held privately, but not linked to land, for a variety of reasons - including financial and accounting purposes, or to provide flexibility in maintaining and using allocations.

"A proportion would also be held by institutional investors, for the purpose of selling the allocations to generate an annual return," the authors found.

The register found the most substantial proportion of shares, 57pc, remained in private hands and tied to land.

As of June 30, last year, the entitlements tied to land included:

. 887GL tied to GMW districts.

. 159GL tied to GMW diverters' land.

. 209GL tied to LMW diverters' land.

. 111GL tied to LMW districts.

Environmental water holders increased their share by nearly 30pc, (661 GL), up from 56GL in 2015, primarily as a result of new shares being issued from water savings.

In late March, Goulburn-Murray Water use stood at 855Gigalitres, compared to 936GL at the same time in 2017-18.

GMW river diverters had so far used 68GL compared to 58GL this time last year. Lower Murray Water districts 110GL compared to 94GL and LMW river diverters 397GL compared to 336GL.

The report found water use for irrigation in northern Victoria was continuing to change, in response to seasonal conditions, commodity prices and water availability.

The long-term water use trends were:

. In GMW Districts, water use has fluctuated significantly over the last ten years, in response to seasonal conditions and water availability.  In 2017-18, 1,337GL was used, an increase in the amount used in the two preceding years, but 21pc less than the volume used in 2004-05.

. Water use by LMW river diverters has increased steadily since the millennium drought and is now more than double the volume used in 2004-05.

Median use since 2014-15 has been 410GL, with 429GL used in 2017-18.

For LMW Districts and GMW river diverters, water use remained steady since the millennium drought, but use in 2017-18 was still around 24pc less than that in 2004-05.

In 2017-18, environmental holders used 799GL, and water corporations used 75GL in northern Victoria.

The report found in 2018-19 lower carryover volumes reduced water availability across the connected southern Murray-Darling Basin and higher market prices for water allocation influenced water use for irrigation in northern Victoria.

Mr Batters said he didn't expect to see much autumn pre-watering taking place.

'When the prices are so high, why would you?" Mr Batters said.

"Everybody is holding off, hoping it's going to rain."

GMW river diverters have so far used 68GL compared to 58GL this time last year, LMW districts 110 GL compared to 94GL and LMW river diverters 397GL, compared to 336GL.

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