THE Prime Minister’s $10 billion National Water Reform Plan for the Murray Darling Basin could double the price of water recovery projects according to Water for Rivers CEO Neville Smith.
Established at the end of 2003 by the NSW, Victorian and Commonwealth Governments, Water For Rivers is a private company charged with achieving specified targets of water savings by means of water efficiency infrastructure projects, innovation and technology and, where appropriate, by acquisition of water entitlements. These savings are used to provide increased environmental flows to the Snowy River and River Murray systems.
“The Federal Government is offering 50% back to the users so now we [as in organisations involved in water recovery projects] have to recover twice as much water,” said Mr Smith. “It is difficult to see how we can do that without entering the market for entitlement in a significant way.” Mr Smith said while he applauded the Prime Minister’s initiative of a National Water Plan he said details of the 50% offer of savings back to users were needed.
Similarly if over allocation of water entitlement was primarily recovered from the market there would be distortions. “If you do the maths on it, the National Plan for Water Security has $3 billion over 10 years to buy back water….,” said Mr Smith. “The current total water market is in the order of $75 million a year…it’s hard to imagine how that wouldn’t have a significant impact on the market.”
Mr Smith said there also needed to be co-ordination of water recovery for the environment.
“There are people like ourselves who are well down the track when it comes to doing this,” he said. “Why reinvent the wheel? We need to build on the knowledge that already exists to get the best outcomes for all stakeholders.”
He explained Water For Rivers operates by adding value through its very experienced professional people in the water industry and natural resource management by contributing their skills to existing Project Teams in organisations such as Murrumbidgee Irrigation Ltd for specific water recovery projects.
“Instead of setting up a duplicate projects group, which is the traditional approach and what we are seeing again now, and replicating existing teams, we go out and add our people as an extra resource to the teams i.e. the irrigation authorities,” he said.
Mr Smith explained that Water For Rivers is run like any other private company but its “return” was “water for the environment” rather than money. By June this year it will have a 100 gigalitre water entitlement for the environment, the bulk of which will have come from successful water efficiency projects.
Water For Rivers is a major sponsor of the 5th Australian Stream Management Conference, which is being hosted by Charles Sturt University’s Institute For Land Water and Society, on May 19 to 25, in Albury. Details at http://www.csu.edu.au/research/ilws/news/conference.html
“What we do in terms of water recovery must be sustainable and needs to be underpinned by research and knowledge,” said Mr Smith. “What we need to get down to, eventually, is that all water should be allocated on the basis of knowledge not only consumptive use.
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