A report released by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) today shows 97% of areas are complying with the sustainable limits of water use imposed by the Basin Plan.¹
“It is pleasing to see such strong rates of compliance with the Basin Plan, which ensures water usage remains within sustainable limits,” said CEO of NSWIC, Claire Miller.
The Sustainable Diversion Limits (SDLs) came into effect in July 2019, making this historically important as the first assessment of use against limits since the Plan commenced.
The MDBA found that, of the 3 areas above their limits, two of them had valid and reasonable reasons, but the third (Barwon-Darling surface water) did not.
The MDBA makes clear that: “These findings don’t mean there have been individual compliance issues or breaches in water use – this is about water planning and use at a catchment level.” ²
NSWIC understands that an outdated model was used to assess the levels of water use in the Barwon-Darling, which is not updated to take account of the overhaul of water management changes and new restrictions on water use in that valley.
“This is a modelling issue, not an issue of too much water take,” said Ms Miller.
“The assessment was done using an outdated model, which does not reflect the many new tight restrictions imposed on the Barwon-Darling, which to no surprise over-estimated the actual level of water use because the model ignored the new restrictions which were actually in place.”
New restrictions include the Resumption of Flow Rule which protects flows to ensure connectivity, Individual Daily Extraction Components (IDECs) which limits how much water each licence holder can take in a day, and recent embargos which completely restrict water use in dry times.
“The actual levels of water take, which is what matters, were compliant.”
“It’s pretty obvious something was wrong, given the vast majority of the 2019-20 period the Barwon-Darling was bone-dry so no water could be taken, and when flows finally did resume they were protected under a total embargo, with only a small amount of access later in the period which was also subject to new additional rules to ensure connectivity.”
“There’s no way the valley could have used more than their limit.”
“If irrigators are going to cop these tough new rules, which have significantly impeded their water access, we expect the models to actually take account of that – that’s only reasonable.”
NSWIC calls on the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment – Water to lift their game, and do their water use assessment with the correct updated model.
“There is simply no excuse for DPIE-Water to use an old model, to make it look like there’s a problem on paper when there isn’t in the real world.”
“This is fear-mongering, creating a storm in a cup tea, when the NSW Department has access to all the data on actual levels of take which clearly shows there is no problem.”
“This has significant implications for the impacted farmers, despite them doing nothing wrong.”
NSWIC requests the matter be referred to the Inspector-General of Water Compliance to set the record straight.