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Murray River: Twynam water buyback « Previous | |Next »
May 29, 2009

I caught a grab on TV last night about Rudd and Wong spending $303million to return water to five NSW river systems under the Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin program. A figure of 240 gigalitres was mentioned.

Digging around I find that the Twynam Agricultural Group, the nation’s largest private water holder, has sold general and supplementary water licences to five systems—the Gwydir (63.5GL), Barwon (14.6GL), Macquarie (41GL), Lachlan (52.3GL) and Murrumbidgee (68.4GL). The NSW Government reacted to the sale by placing an embargo on any further buybacks in the state and demanded that Victorian irrigators be called on to sell their share of water licences.

Two points can be made. Removing Twynam’s allocation from the system does mean more water over the long-run for environmental flows. However, these licences have yielded, on average, 107GL of real water—or less than half the 240GL entitlement—each year. Climate change may well reduce that amount to less than 100GL in public hands. Though little of that water will make its way to South Australia and to the lower lakes and the Corong, it will help give the Gwyder and Macquarie wetlands a drink.

Secondly, this buyback by the Commonwealth is addressing the bad policy by the NSW state government, which over-allocated the water in the first place--- in the 60s and 70s under Wal Murray-- and which has failed, nay refused, to claw back the over-allocations of water priced far too low. They have ducked the issue of subsidizing irrigated agriculture that trashed the environment.

This is happening at a time when the Victorian state government is building a pipeline to take 75GL for Melbourne. Rudd, Wong and Garrett say nothing. How can taking more water from the River Murray be a good thing? The Commonwealth is saying that health of the Murray-Darling Basin is in decline that available water is currently over-allocated, and this problem is likely to become worse as water availability declines due to climate change.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:44 AM | | Comments (11)


Twynam sold their water licences because they were yielding a poor rate of return. The company is getting out of rice and cotton, and they got a pretty good deal for selling their licences.

we don’t need to grow cotton, or even rice as part of irrigated agriculture because the cost of growing those cops is they pull too much water out of the system. Twynam are getting out of irrigated agriculture and moving into cropping.

The Nationals have gone feral: Nationals agriculture spokesman John Cobb said he was appalled that his electorate was being "hit again".

Here we have the Rudd Government ripping 240 gigalitres of water out of regional communities, which has the potential to create hundreds of jobs in regional Australia, grow thousands of tonnes of food and fibre to feed people and permanently stimulate the economy.

This was a normal market transaction! The Twynam Agricultural Group, had every right to sell its irrigation licences for 240 gigalitres of water to the federal Government.

This is good news.
Not great news but good, probably the best I have heard for yonks as far as the river is concerned.
Its a substantial amount of water whether it is 200 plus gig or only half that. Of course its 'paper' water and doesn't become wet unless it can run the gauntlet of the irrigators who, I presume, could snaffle it up if quotas are lifted by a few percent.
BUt if some, at least, can make its way all the way to the mouth that would be great.
A step in the right direction.
My faith in Penny and the ALP has been restored by a bee's ...ummm....whisker.

As for Hunt, what a tool.

I see that the NSW Government may join South Australia's High Court challenge, aimed at forcing Victoria into selling more of its water. More good news.

where is the Commonwealth Government on the Victoria recalcitrance-- the Brumby Government's 4 per cent cap on water trading? Victoria is about Victoria. Brumby is playing them for fools.

Greg Hunt is saying that the money should go into upgrading dilapidated irrigation infrastructure. More government subsidies for irrigated agriculture that is disguised as investment.

There is a huge shift in irrigation in Australia was under way-- a consolidation of the industry that is going to be enhanced by the water buyback.

Nearly half the Twynam water buyback is in the Gwydir and Lachlan river systems. Both end in terminal wetlands, meaning that it is only in flood years does the Gwydir flow into the Darling River, and the Lachlan flow into the Murrumbidgee.

The waters of the Macquarie, Darling and Barwon are severely reduced in their journey through Menindee Lakes where, when it is full, 460GL evaporates every year.

So not much water for the lower lakes in South Australia

Thanks Peter. I'd been wondering where it would end up.

Nothing in it for the Murray Darling, but if it had headed down that way Brumby would slurp it up before it could do any good. There's a bit of a message for Victoria in this particular purchase, then?

Brumby and the Victorian Farmers Federation would have seen it as Victoria's water. You cannot have our water.We are not going to sell you our water.

The Coalition is openly heading off the cliff on this. Indeed, Coalition obstructionists in parliamen vote against almost everything, and top party leaders of the Right seem to be of the view that it would be a mistake for us to moderate.

The only proper answer to the problem is, of course and very obviously, to treat the ecological needs of the whole river as the first priority.

So if the above agreement means more environmental water for Menindee Lakes [and maybe some other] but none for the Coorong or in between it is only a partial answer.
Which is some progress.

I'm happy that Menindee lakes gets water as it should, the evaporation rate being natural and part of the system doesn't worry me at all. After all MOST water for irrigation is wasted in evaporation. About 40% of water pumped out of the river ends up being actually used by the target plants, varying of course with the irrigation methods used, season and weather.

Anyway I learned to swim at Morton Boulka on Menindee Lakes and in the Darling nearby in the days when you could see the bottom of the river through the clear water.

But its progress albeit an eensy weensy step forward.