Showing posts with label water policy politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label water policy politics. Show all posts

Sunday, 28 October 2018

On past performance it will only take state and federal National Party politicians and their mates a couple of years to drain Morrison's $5 billion Drought Future Fund


On 26 October 2018, in the face of ongoing allegations of financial gouging of the public purse and mismanagement of water resources in the Murray Darling Basin, Prime Minister and Liberal MP for Cook Scott Morrison unveiled his $5 billion Drought Future Fund at a summit attended by farmers, economists, industry bodies and state and federal ministers in Canberra....promising measures to drought-proof the nation's agriculture sector. The first $3.9 billion of the scheme, which would operate similarly to the Medical Future Fund, is to be paid for out of a pool of money originally intended for the National Disability Insurance Scheme.

What a brilliant idea.

Rob an already underfunded disability sector and the vulnerable people who depend on its services in order to beef up a proposed drought future fund,

What can possibly go wrong?

Well, on past history it will likely take National politicians and their mates about two years to empty this new fund  - with little to no drought-proofing to show for the taxpayer dollars they manage to redirect towards their own businesses.


The Age, 26 October 2018:

The Nationals' federal treasurer Peter Schwarz is accused of gouging much of the $850,000 he was paid by Australia’s largest drought-proofing project and calling in favours when pressed to account for the taxpayer cash.

As Prime Minister Scott Morrison launches his drought summit, leaked government files reveal that Mr Schwarz banked the taxpayer subsidies in November 2011 and then spent years resisting efforts from water officials to get him to or use it for its intended purpose – saving water.

The frustration of the Goulburn-Murray Water authority with the conduct of Mr Schwarz – who as well as being the Nationals key federal fundraiser is also running in next month’s Victorian election – is exposed in dozens of damning leaked authority files.

The files provide a case study of issues which are front and centre at Mr Morrison’s drought summit and which are being examined by drought envoy and Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce: using taxpayer funds to help farmers deal with drought, and, questions about whether backroom favours or mismanagement are undermining drought-relief efforts.

Among the leaked files is a July 15, 2016 memo from a water authority lawyer summing up his view of Mr Schwarz’s conduct after he joined hundreds of other farmers given cash incentives as part of Australia’s largest water saving initiative, the Connections Project. The project aims to help restore the Murray Darling water system.

The lawyer stated that after Mr Schwarz received $850,505 in 2011 – divided into $473,000 for on-farm water-saving measures and $300,000 to buy a neighbouring property – he ‘‘failed to perform any of the obligations despite having received the payment … in full.’’

‘‘The Schwarzes have spent much of the ensuing period attempting to make a case that, notwithstanding they entered into the agreement and received payment, they should not be bound to perform,’’ the July 2016 legal memo states.

The leaked files also reveal that Mr Schwarz sought to call on his personal relationship with a controversial high-ranking water official, Gavin Hanlon, and an unnamed ‘‘minister’’ to ‘‘support [his] cause’’.

Mr Hanlon was a senior Victorian water official who was headhunted by the NSW government as its irrigation chief. He quit his NSW post in 2017 after revelations of questionable dealings with farm lobbyists, sparking an ongoing investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption……..

In a statement to Fairfax Media, the water authority said that seven years after it gave Mr Schwarz the funds, the stand-off over with him has been "substantially resolved." It is understood that Mr Schwarz and Goulburn-Murray Water have finally agreed that he will use the funds for water savings, but no work has as yet been done.

The files reveal intense frustration inside Goulburn-Murray Water not only about Mr Schwarz’s conduct but the authority’s inability to recoup taxpayer funds.

A note written by an employee in April 2014 states that: ‘‘Peter told me on a number of occasions he would prefer to deal with higher GMW management and would not be accepting the agreement he had previously signed.’’.......

BACKGROUND

SBC News, 1 December 2018:

The NSW public has a right to know whether a senior government executive, fired over her alleged involvement in the Murray-Darling water theft scandal, received a six-figure payout, the opposition says.

A report into water theft in the Murray-Darling Basin, released on Thursday, confirmed that along with top bureaucrat Gavin Hanlon's public resignation, a second executive was fired for her role in the alleged misconduct.

AAP understands the senior executive is a former National Party staffer and irrigation lobbyist, who was appointed to a senior job within the Department of Primary Industries in 2015.

Opposition water spokesman Chris Minns said the Berejiklian government should confess whether the executive had received a golden handshake on her way out the door......

In September, NSW Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said misconduct proceedings had started against Mr Hanlon.

Mr Hanlon was forced to resign as the Department of Industry director general in September following allegations of misconduct, including promising to share internal government documents with irrigation lobbyists in 2016.

Thursday's independent investigation into NSW water management and compliance report, authored by Ken Matthews, said the second senior executive is alleged to have also been involved in the teleconference.

According to her LinkedIn profile, the executive was a policy officer for lobby group Southern River Irrigators between 2011 and 2013 before becoming an advisor to federal senator Simon Birmingham for a year......

Thursday's report comes less than a week after both NSW and Queensland were slammed by a Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) review into water theft and regulation.

That inquiry found both states regularly failed to make sure irrigators complied with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and weren't transparent about their failures......

The Guardian, 27 September 2018:

A former water industry lobbyist preselected by the New South Wales National party to lead its Senate ticket in the next federal election has suggested examining Barnaby Joyce’s proposal to release more water for irrigators.

Once a lobbyist for Murray Irrigation, Perin Davey won the No 1 spot on the NSW National party’s Senate ticket earlier this month, after the longtime Nationals senator and bank campaigner John “Wacka” Williams retired and the former Nationals deputy leader Fiona Nash resigned over her dual citizenship.

Davey was part of the teleconference with NSW government water official Gavin Hanlon, when he allegedly offered documents stripped of the department logo to help irrigators lobby against the Murray-Darling basin plan.

Hanlon resigned following the revelations, which were referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. The former water minister Kevin Humphries was also referred to the state watchdog. Icac makes it a practice not to comment any current investigations. Davey said she had not been interviewed by Icac and Guardian Australia does not allege any wrongdoing.

The meeting was exposed in the 2017 Four Corners episode that reported allegations that water was being harvested by some irrigators in the Barwon-Darling region of the Murray-Darling basin to the detriment of the environment and downstream communities.

Joyce, the former agriculture minister, had nominated Davey to the board of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority but, as a result of the fallout from the program, Davey asked Joyce to withdraw her nomination.

Davey, who now runs her own government relations company, said she was simply participating in a teleconference and that it was not unusual......


North Coast Voices:

13 MARCH 2018
Only a handful of NSW landowners to face court over Murray-Darling Basin water theft allegations? The NSW Government will prosecute several people over alleged water theft on the Barwon-Darling, eight months after Four Corners investigated the issue. WaterNSW has named the people it is taking to the Land and Environment Court over alleged breaches of water management rules.

13 APRIL 2018
Alleged irrigator water theft heading for the courts? A cousin by marriage of the current Australian Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud, John Norman, finds his agricultural business practices under scrutiny...

30 APRIL 2018
What the Australian Government didn’t want the UN to publish During Nationals MP for New England Barnaby Joyce’s disastrous sojourn as Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources the federal government began a successfull campaign to have the United Nations delete all criticism of Australia’s $13bn effort to restore the ailing Murray-Darling river system from a published study.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

Adani Group has Morrison, Price, Littleproud & Taylor wrapped around its little finger


Since September 2013 the Australian Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government has been a rolling national disaster.

This latest episode appears to have its roots in the hard right's commitment to dismantle environmental protections.

Especially replacing Labor's "water trigger" amendment to the ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION AND BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION ACT 1999 with a band-aid which fooled no-one.

ABC News, 25 September 2018:

A farmer has been denied access to a river system Adani plans on drawing 12.5 billion litres of water from in what activists are calling a "double standard", documents obtained under freedom of information laws show.

The mining giant plans to take 12.5 billion litres of water from the Suttor River every year, nearly as much as all local farmers combined.

Despite this amount, the documents show at least one irrigator had their application for a water licence rejected in 2011, leading activists to claim farmers were assessed more harshly than Adani.

The documents also show the modelling used by the company to predict the impacts of the water usage ignored the past 14 years of rainfall data and, despite planning to take water until 2077, it did not take into account the impacts of climate change.


"Altogether, this underscores how poor the decision was last week to allow 12.5 billion litres to be taken without assessment," Carmel Flint from anti-mining group Lock The Gate Alliance said. The group obtained the documents under Queensland's Right To Information laws.....

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Blatant water theft by miners being allowed under Berejiklian Government rules?


IMAGE: Ros Druce. Maules Creek Mine, January 2016 in New Matilda

ABC News, 10 September 2018:

A New South Wales coal mine is being accused of inappropriately taking more surface water than it is entitled to.

A review of Whitehaven Coal's Maules Creek Mine near Narrabri by the campaign group Lock the Gate showed it captured 1,800 million litres (ML) of surface water in 2016, despite being licenced to take 30 million litres.

Surface water is water that is collected from rainfall and run off.

An examination of surface water licences in New South Wales has been unable to find any other surface water licences held by the mine to justify the additional water.

"It does appear that the take is much higher than the licence they have explained to the community," Maules Creek farmer Lochie Leitch said.

Whitehaven Coal declined to be interviewed.

The company issued a statement saying it was in compliance with its water licences, and the use of rainfall and runoff is permissible under legislation.

Farmers whose properties neighbour the mine have joined forces with the campaign group, Lock the Gate Alliance, to lodge a complaint with the state's new water watchdog, the Natural Resources Access Regulator.

The NRAR was set up in April 2018 following a review of water management and compliance which was prompted by a story by the ABC's Four Corners.

The farmers are worried that the alleged collection of this extra surface water is affecting the environment.

"[It's] simply capturing too much water that would otherwise be recharging groundwater and flowing into surface water systems," Maules Creek farmer Sally Hunter said.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Tweets of the Week



Note: Cr Keith Williams is deputy mayor of Ballina Shire Council on the NSW Far North Coast.


Monday, 21 May 2018

Water raiders are eyeing the Clarence River - again


In 2007 Clarence Valley communities saw off an Australian prime minister (John Howard) and his water minister (Malcolm Turnbull)  - telling them "Not A Drop".

The issue of inter-basin water transfer became an election issue that year and the National Party lost the seat of Page and the Liberal-Nationals Coalition Government lost the federal election.

Having learnt nothing from the commitment of local people in the Clarence Valley, including traditional owners, once again the water raiders have raised their heads above the parapet.

The Daily Examiner, letter to the Editor, 19 May 2018, p.14:

Clarence diversion

On April 18, 2018, Toowoomba Regional Council in south-east Queensland resolved to submit a motion to the National General Assembly of Local Government in June this year.

This motion calls for the Assembly to amend Resolution 77 (Griffith City Council) which was carried the previous year.

Resolution 77 called on the “Federal Government to carry out a further feasibility study on David Coffey’s “Scheme to Divert Tributaries of the Clarence River to the Murray Darling Basin” to gather up-to-date information for investigation into this scheme”.

The Toowoomba amendment seeks to incorporate a pipeline from the Clarence River to Toowoomba and the Darling Downs region into that request for federal government investigation.

Hot on the heels of this latest push to dam and divert water from the Clarence River system comes the NSW Legislative Council Portfolio Committee No. 5 “Augmentation of water supply for rural and regional New South Wales” report, released on May 14.

Although informed by Clarence Valley Council that it has resolved six times not to support diversion of the Clarence River, this Upper House report clearly favours damming and diverting water from the Clarence River system.

The wording may have been slightly watered down via a motion by Mick Veitch MLC but it is still of considerable concern: ”Resolution 40 - 6.89 The committee heard evidence from some inquiry participants that there may be potential benefits of diverting the Clarence River to the west.

“These inquiry participants were of the view that there is merit to any strategy that seeks to mitigate floods and flood damage in the Clarence Valley and provide additional water for agriculture in the Barwon region. The committee acknowledges that stakeholders were divided on the issue of water diversion. However, some inquiry participants held strong views against diverting waters from the Clarence River to the west.”

However, the draft version of 6.89 which indicates the extent of support the dam and divert proposal enjoys within this Upper House committee was quite frankly alarming: “The committee notes that there may be potential benefits of diverting the Clarence River to the west.

“There is merit to any strategy that seeks to mitigate floods and flood damage in the Clarence Valley and provide additional water for agriculture in the Barwon region.

“The committee acknowledges that stakeholders were divided on the issue of water diversion. However, the committee believes that further investigation into water diversion schemes is warranted to consider their feasibility as a strategy to mitigate floods.

“The committee therefore recommends that the NSW Government investigate the feasibility of water diversion schemes as a flood mitigation tool.”

If these sentiments are echoed by the Berejiklian Coalition Government down in Sydney then Clarence Valley Council, the people of the Clarence Valley and communities whose local economies depend on a healthy Clarence River will have a fight on their hands.

Because the calls from communities and vested interests who have managed to reduce their region’s rivers to a series of mud puddles will grow louder and more insistent over time.

This time around the call is spearheaded by Griffith, Toowoomba and the shadowy lobby group, Australian Water Exploration Company Ltd, which is apparently looking to benefit from any infrastructure spend on a Clarence Valley dam and pipeline.

At the June National Assembly of Local Government they will be speaking to a sympathetic audience. Hopefully Clarence Valley Council is sending a representative to this gathering that will strongly counter their arguments.

Judith M. Melville, Yamba

Sunday, 6 May 2018

Problems with the Murray-Darling Basin plan just keep mounting and the NSW Northern Rivers needs to make sure these problems don't become ours


When it comes to the Murray-Darling Basin river systems there is never any really good news - we go from reports of town water shortages, pictures of permanently dry river beds and allegations of widespread water theft to the possibility of a fundamental legal error in the master plan circa 2012.

The Guardian, 2 May 2018:

One of Australia’s foremost lawyers has issued an extraordinary warning that the Murray-Darling basin plan is likely to be unlawful because the authority overseeing it made a fundamental legal error when it set the original 2,750-gigalitre water recovery target in 2012.

Bret Walker QC, who chairs the South Australian royal commission into the Murray-Darling basin plan, issued the warning in a second issues paper. He also spelled out the far-reaching implications of the plan being unlawful.

Not only does it mean that the original water recovery target of 2,750GL was likely to have been set too low to deliver the environmental goal of the Water Act and could be challenged in court, but it also means that amendments to the plan now being debated by the Senate are likely to be invalid as well.

These include a plan to trim 70GL from the northern basin water recovery targets and a suite of projects, known as the sustainable diversion limit adjustment projects, which would be funded in lieu of recovering 605GL in the southern basin.

Both are being strongly criticised by scientists and environmentalists because they believe that they further undercut the environmental outcomes of the plan. 
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) says it has relied on the best available science in recommending the changes.

The new uncertainty over the validity of the amendments will make it difficult for crossbenchers to support them as the Coalition government has urged.

Walker has provided a roadmap for environmental groups or an individual affected to challenge the plan in court.

At the heart of his advice is his view that the Water Act directs the MDBA to ensure environmental outcomes are achieved when it set the environmentally sustainable level of take (ESLT) from the river system. This is the flipside of setting the water recovery target.

But instead of considering the environmental outcomes only, the MDBA applied a triple bottom line approach, giving equal weight to social and economic impacts of water recovery.

“The MDBA also appears to have approached the word ‘compromise’ in the definition of ESLT in a manner involving compromise between environmental, social and economic outcomes rather than in relation to the concept of ‘endangering’ or ‘putting in danger’ environmental criteria such as key environmental assets, and key ecosystem functions,” the SA royal commission said.

 “The commissioner is inclined to take the view that this approach to the word ‘compromise’ in s4 of the Water Act is not maintainable, or alternatively that he is presently unable to see how it is maintainable,” the paper says.

“There is also evidence that recovering an amount of water for the environment of 2,750GL does not, as a matter of fact, represent an ESLT in accordance with the definition of that term under the Water Act.”

Walker pointed to numerous reports, including a 2011 CSIRO report which said modelling based on a 2,800GL recovery target “does not meet several of the specified hydrological and ecological targets”.

There is also evidence that the MDBA received legal advice on more than one occasion, consistent with the commissioner’s concerns.

The issue of water sustainability in the Murray-Darling Basin affects not just those living in the basin and the economies of the four states this large river system runs through – it also affects the bottom line of the national economy and those east coast regions which will be pressured to dam and divert water to the Basin if its rivers continue to collapse.

One such region is the Northern Rivers of New South Wales and in particular the Clarence River catchment area and the Clarence Valley Local Government Area.

Almost every year for the past two decades there have been calls to dam and divert the Clarence River – either north into south-east Queensland or west over the ranges into the NSW section of the Murray Darling Basin.

The latest call came last month on 18 April from Toowoomba Regional Council in south-east Queensland:



The response came on 24 April via NBN News and it was a firm NO:

However, because communities in the Murray-Darling Basin have for generations refused to face the fact that they are living beyond the limits of long-term water sustainability and successive federal governments have mismanaged water policy and policy implementation, such calls will continue.

These calls for water from other catchments to be piped into the Basin or into SE Queensland are not based on scientific evidence or sound economic principles. 

They are based on an emotional response to fact that politicians and local communities looking at environmental degradation and water shortages on a daily basis are still afraid to admit that they no longer have the amount of river and groundwater needed to maintain their way of life and, are wanting some form of primitive magic to occur.

The Clarence River system is the most attractive first option for those would-be water raiders, but experience has shown the Northern Rivers region that once a formal investigation is announced all our major rivers on the NSW North Coast become vulnerable as the terms of reference are wide.

The next National General Assembly of Local Government (NGA) runs from 7-20 June 2018.

If Toowoombah Regional Council’s motion is placed on the assembly agenda it is highly likely that a number of councils in the Murray-Darling Basin will announce their support of the proposal.

Northern Rivers communities need to watch this NGA closely.

Monday, 30 April 2018

What the Australian Government didn’t want the UN to publish



During Nationals MP for New England Barnaby Joyce’s disastrous sojourn as Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources the federal government began a successfull campaign to have the United Nations delete all criticism of Australia’s $13bn effort to restore the ailing Murray-Darling river system from a published study.

It seems the Turnbull Government did not want the world to know, or Australian voters to be reminded, that it had placed long term water sustainability in four of its eight states and territories in jeopardy.

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations draft report in question was the following:

C.J. Perry and Pasquale Steduto, (25 May 2017), DOES IMPROVED IRRIGATION TECHNOLOGY SAVE WATER? A review of the evidence: Discussion paper on irrigation and sustainable water resources management in the Near East and North Africa

Abstract
The Near East and North Africa (NENA) Region has the lowest per-capita fresh water resource availability among all Regions of the world. Already naturally exposed to chronic shortage of water, NENA will face severe intensification of water scarcity in the coming decades due to several drivers related to demography, food security policies, overall socio-economic development and climate change. Irrigated agriculture in the Region, which already consumes more than 85 percent of renewable fresh water resources, will face strong challenges in meeting augmented national food demand and supporting economic development in rural areas. Countries of the NENA Region promote efficient and productive irrigation as well as the protection and sustainable management of scarce and fragile natural resources, particularly water, in their national plans. Through the Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity, FAO is providing support and focus to efforts in confronting the fast-widening gap between availability and demand for fresh water resources. A key question to address is: how can countries simultaneously reduce this gap, promote sustainable water resources management and contribute effectively to food security and enhanced nutrition? The traditional assumption has been that increasing irrigation efficiency through the adoption of modern technologies, like drip irrigation, leads to substantial water savings, releasing the saved water to the environment or to other uses. The evidence from research and field measurements shows that this is not the case. The benefit at the local “on-farm” scale may appear dramatic, but when properly accounted at basin scale, total water consumption by irrigation tends to increase instead of decreasing. The potential to increase water productivity— more “crop per drop”—is also quite modest for the most important crops. These findings suggest that reductions in water consumption by irrigated agriculture will not come from the technology itself. Rather, measures like limiting water allocation will be needed to ensure a sustainable level of water use. The present report provides the evidence needed to open up a discussion with all major stakeholders dealing with water resources management on the proper and scientifically sound framework required to address jointly water scarcity, sustainability and food security problems. A discussion that has been disregarded for too long.

C.J. Perry stated at Research Gate on 25 April 2018 that:

Government representatives from the Australian Embassy in Rome disagreed with the research findings for the Australia section summarised in the original report. FAO, in response, welcomed the opportunity to improve the report. Dissemination was put on hold and the report was removed from the FAO website pending inclusion of additional material relevant to the Australian section. In a series of exchanges, no empirical evidence was presented to support the Australian authorities’ claim that the investment program in the Murray Darling Basin has generated substantial water savings and environmental benefits. This left the global principles and conclusions set out in the original report unchallenged, while the results from Australia remained contentious. Therefore, it was decided that the best solution to the matter was to withdraw the Australian section from the publication and let the Discussion Paper to be available again on the web. The original and current versions of the report both invite submissions of additional case studies, information and analysis to WSI@fao.org.  Cases documenting technical or policy interventions where irrigation water has been released to environmental or other uses will be particularly valuable.

The suppressed section in the original draft of this UN report would have been identical or very similar to this version of the text:

4.1 AUSTRALIA

Document(s)
System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (SEEA-Water) (United Nations Statistics Division, 2012); Water Account Australia 2004–05, (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2006); Droughtand the rebound effect: A Murray–Darling basin example (Loch and Adamson, 2015); Understanding irrigation water use efficiency at different scales for better policy reform: A case study of the Murray-Darling Basin, Australia (Qureshi et al., 2011); Water Reform and Planning in the Murray–Darling Basin, Australia (Grafton, 2017)
…………………………………...........................................................................................
Context

Australia has led the world in the introduction of water rights in a context of extreme resource variability.
This in turn has provided the basis for managed trading between sectors and locations, and valuable lessons regarding potential problems as previously under-utilized entitlements are sold and used, and of “stranded assets” if significant volumes of water are traded out of an area. More recently, evidence suggests that subsidy programmes to “save” water seem to have been ineffective, poorly conceived and un-prioritized.
…………………………………...........................................................................................
Highlights

The Murray Darling Basin (MDB) is widely recognized for its advanced standards in water resources management—in particular the system of tradable water rights that allows transfer of water on short term or permanent leases subject to evaluation of third party impacts by the regulatory authorities.

Australia participated in the formulation of the United Nations (UN) System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water. This framework accounts for water withdrawn from “the environment” (rivers, aquifers), use of that water in various sectors, including transfer between sectors (for example a water utility supplying a factory or town), consumption through ET, and direct and indirect return flows to the environment and to sinks. Trial implementation of the framework was planned in Australia, and the Australian Bureau of Statistics had already in 2006 issued guidelines referencing the System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for Water (UN- System of Environmental-Economic Accounting for
Water (SEEAW) system), which was to be applied to the reporting of the 2004-5 national water accounts.

However, the following statement from the introduction to Chapter 4 of the 2004-5 National Water Accounts for Australia5 is apparently at variance with one critical element of the SEEAW approach—namely the distinction between consumptive and non-consumptive uses:

This chapter examines the use of water within the AGRICULTURE industry in Australia. Water used by this industry includes livestock drinking water and water applied through irrigation to crops and pastures. Since the AGRICULTURE industry does not use water in-stream, or supply water to other users, total water use is equal to water consumption.

Elsewhere in the Accounting Standards it is stated that:

It is believed that leakage to landscape from surface water resources such as rivers and storages occurs in the MDB region; however, reliable volumes are not available, and currently there is no suitable quantification approach to estimate these volumes.

Does this assumption of zero return flows matter? Indeed it does: Australia is now embarked on a massive (AUS$ 10bn) programme to save water for the environment, including subsidies to farmers for hi-tech on farm investment. Savings are estimated on the basis of typical application efficiencies (e.g. flood irrigation 50 percent, drip 90 percent), so a farmer with a water entitlement of 100 water units, switching from flood to drip would be assumed to consume 50 units at present, which would require a delivery of only 50/0.9 (55.5) units after conversion. The “saving” of 44.5 units are then divided between the farmer and the environment. Of the 22.25 units going to the farmer, he consumes (with the new technology) approximately extra 20 units. So on-farm water consumption is expected to increase from 50  units to 70 units (and return flows are diminished by approximately the same amount), in apparent direct contradiction to the programme objectives. In some cases, such return flows will be non-recoverable outflows to saline groundwater; in other cases, where irrigation is close to rivers or where groundwater is usable, the return flows are recoverable and cannot be counted as “savings”. However, the current evaluation of investments includes no apparent basis for assessing whether subsidized introduction of hi-tech systems will actually release water to alternative uses, or simply increase consumption by the extra amount allocated to the farmer. A more comprehensive implementation of UN-SEEAW—where return flows to the environment are specifically accounted for—would have addressed this problem.

Other authors have identified the issue. Qureshi et al. (2011) point to the problem of ignoring return flows, and the danger of focussing on local “efficiency”, while Loch and Adamson (2015) go on to identify the “rebound effect” whereby when water deliveries to the farm are more valuable, the demand for water actually increases.

Most recently, writing in a Special Issue of Water Economics and Policy that addressed many of the complexities of managing water scarcity in the Murray Darling basin, Grafton (2017) made the following key observations regarding the Australian experience with providing subsidies for on-farm improvements in irrigation technology:

* About USD 2.5 billion of taxpayers’ funds used for improving farm irrigation has primarily benefitted private individuals;
* These investments have had no discernible impact in terms of reduced water use on a per-hectare basis, or release of water to alternative users;
* The buyback of water rights from willing sellers was the most effective use of taxpayer funds to release water to alternative uses;
* Investments in irrigation to raise “crop-per-drop” productivity had failed to deliver water savings on a basin scale.



Thursday, 26 April 2018

Everytime someone buys a bottle of water in Australia it has consequences for a community somewhere in the world


By November 2017 Tweed Shire's est. 93,458 residents faced a water security trifecta.

Floods in the first quarter of the year had affected water quality and local infrastructure, a  tidal anomaly in August had caused saltwater to enter the Bray Park Weir, the following month Terranora Lagoon was contaminated by raw sewerage from the treatment plant and the walls of Clarrie Hall dam still needed raising to cope with urban water needs.

Water sustainability still remains an issue in 2018.

In this case it appears to be Black Mount Pty Ltd and Mt. Warning Spring Water Company's commercial water supply needs which are the main culprit.......

Echo NetDaily, 13 April 2018:

A call for the halt of water mining in the Tweed Valley has been made by NSW Greens MP and North Coast spokesperson, Dawn Walker in state parliament this week and is supported by the Tweed Water Alliance. Concerns over the impact on underground water resources, alleged poor compliance with extraction licenses and the damage caused by heavy vehicles have all been raised.

‘Water is our most precious resource and gigalitres of water beneath Tweed Valley are being sucked up and bottled for commercial profit, leaving the community high and dry with the impacts. Water mining licences are being handed out by the government without adequate monitoring and in many cases, water meters haven’t even been installed,’ said Ms Walker.

Water mining licences are controlled by the state government while work on the property and permission for truck movements are controlled by the local council.

‘We certainly support the ban,’ said Jeremy Tager, spokesperson for the Tweed 
water alliance who believes the water extraction companies are ‘operating lawlessly’.

‘Extracting water is a lose lose prospect for here and most other places. Water is taken away from local users; it creates little or no employment as most of the operators are water transporters. That means the trucks come in and get filled up and then are taken away to be bottled elsewhere.

‘They only pay a a small road contribution to drive these big trucks on rural roads that were never designed for them.’

In December 2017 the Tweed council voted to amend their LEP (local environment plan) 2014 to remove the clause that the previous council had put in to allow water extraction for bottling water in the Tweed shire. This has been sent to the state government for approval as part of the Gateway process. If the state government decide that the change can proceed then Tweed council will be able to put the LEP amendment on public display.

The state government can also request that a ‘savings clause’ be put in that would allow current applications that are waring to be assessed to be allowed.

Echonetdaily asked the state government what the time frame for responding to the Tweeds request for removing the water mining clause from the LEP was and if they would request the inclusion of a ‘savings clause’.

A spokesperson for the department of planning and environment responded stating that; ‘The department is currently in the early stages of assessing a proposal from Tweed Shire council to remove the water extraction and bottling clause to the Tweed Shire 2014 LEP.

Local extractor takes council to court

Larry Karlos, a local water extractor, is currently taking the Tweed Council to the Land and Environment court to appeal their decision not to allow them to increase the size of the trucks they use to transport water from six meters to nineteen meters.
‘The council refused the application for 19m trucks because they felt that the road was no suitable for that size truck,’ said Tweed Mayor Katie Milne.

‘Urlip Road is really narrow and in some places it is only one lane. There are also areas where it is very steep on one side and has a steep drop off on the other.

ABC News, 21 March 2018:

It's the new battle in the bush — the bottled water wars.

On one side is Australia's $800-million-a-year bottled water industry and its suppliers, on the other, rural residents who fear their most precious resource, groundwater, is being squandered.

"It's dividing the local community," said Larry Karlos, one of half a dozen water extractors in the Tweed Valley in northern New South Wales.
He's been pumping water from an aquifer beneath his property for 16 years.
But his recent bid to increase the amount he sells to bottling companies has ignited local opposition.

Fourth-generation farmer Patrick O'Brien fears his children's future is being jeopardised for the profit of the water industry.

"If they don't stop this type of thing then, you know, what's going to be left?" he told 7.30.

“What's going to left for future generations? No-one was really worried when they were trucking the water out in small amounts, but then they want more, they want more trips, they want bigger trucks."