Water

The Policy

  1. As the population of Australia continues to grow, through immigration, we need to manage our water resources for the benefit of all Australians.
  2. Future ownership of water entitlements/water allocations to be restricted to Australians or local government, State/Territory governments or the federal government.
  3. The ten per cent of surface water and twenty per cent of groundwater now in foreign ownership to be on-sold to those defined in paragraph 2.
  4. Water is an essential service. Treating water as a commodity fails to recognize the impact on rural communities.
  5. We need to investigate ways to eliminate water commodity traders with no ultimate interest in the water.
  6. We support the operation of desalination plants that will reduce the amount of water being taken from the Murray Darling Basin (MDB).
  7. We support the establishment of a federal authority to determine the best way to drought-proof Australia, through a scheme known as the hybrid Bradfield Scheme. The purpose of the hybrid Bradfield would be to add water to the MDB and to create new irrigation areas on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, further north than the Snowy Mountains Scheme.

Background

Prior to federation in 1901, the Murray River was largely used for navigation and trade. As the population increased the need for food production increased and more water was being taken out of the Murray River.

The 1915 River Murray Water’s Agreement provided equal flow to NSW and to VIC with a guaranteed minimum to SA.

In response to the extreme variation in river flows from year to year, dams were built to capture the water in wet years. Today there is 35,000 GL of storage.

During the wet years spanning the 1950’s to 1990’s State governments oversold the water in the River Murray. In response, the Basin States stopped issuing water licenses.

Today the flow of the River is now largely determined by irrigators when they ask for their water allocation to be released from storage areas.

With no more water licenses being issued the scene was now set for water to become a tradeable commodity, in hydrologically connected areas. Water trading is now regulated by the Commonwealth Water Act 2007.

The Commonwealth Water Act 2007 also established the MDB Authority (and the Basin Plan), the water trading rules and the purchase of water for the environment by the government.

Australia’s population is increasing but the water in the MDB is not and the Basin provides one-third of our food supply. Basin communities and farming organizations dislike the MDB Plan.

No one is happy with the Basin Plan and rural communities, in particular, are deeply affected by the water trade. When farmers sell water rights, they often leave the district with the result local spending decreases and there are less employment and a reduction in social services. Council revenues drop and housing prices fall and young people migrate out if the area.

Water entitlements and annual allocations of water are appreciating assets and of critical importance to the future of Australia’s agriculture and should be in the hands of Australians.

The Snowy Mountains Scheme redirected water from the Snowy River east of the Great Dividing Range to the west and the Tumut River was also redirected. As a result, more water was added to the Murray River and the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Scheme was created including the two new towns of Griffith and Leeton.

There is potential for the Clarence River to be redirected as part of the hybrid Bradfield Scheme.

Monsoonal water in Queensland goes to the sea and could be redirected as part of the hybrid Bradfield Scheme.

Desalination plants could be built around the Gulf of Carpentaria and run using coal-fired power stations. The water could be piped to say Longreach and into the Darling River as part of the hybrid Bradfield Scheme.

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