Water works

Water works As each irrigation season passes, Riverland Wine members, along with other local irrigators are increasingly anxious about water security and risk. Without enough water, it is difficult to run an irrigated farm. But the impact ripples beyond the farmgate. All our community feels the pain as the uncertainty affects decision making in every business. The economic and social wellbeing of our beautiful towns is utterly reliant on our ability to influence policy and to ensure our river can sustain our farm businesses, our environment and our communities of stakeholders in the long term.

So, as a community, what do we do?

People often pinpoint their pain; they use expressions like “the problem with water is…”. Each of these problems are relevant in the particular circumstances. Some say water is too expensive; others want prices higher. Some say brokers cannot be trusted. Some say carryover rules are problematic. Not everyone can be satisfied at the same time, or so it seems.

In the broader context, long term water security is a challenge for us all. After witnessing the vast ‘greenfield’ nut plantations appearing in the past decade, many are pondering where all the water will come from; and rightly so.

The concerns about water affect all irrigators in our community and the other communities throughout the Basin in much the same ways. During the last few months Riverland Wine has been developing plans on how to respond to the common concerns expressed by all sectors. A single group, Riverland Horticultural Futures has been formed to listen, learn and help influence decision makers, including the MDB Authority and if need be, the ACCC in relation to water markets.

Complaining is just the first step in identifying concerns around the ‘pain-points’ of water. Strategy must be developed to manage the pain and influence a change in the symptoms or policy that causes the pain and harms our communities. Policy development cannot be based on gut feel or opinion or near-enough is good-enough. Sound policy demands facts. Facts rely on accurate, timely data. Good quality data can be analysed and modelled. But… where do you get it?

‘Localism’ must be front and centre in this process. Riverland irrigators and the community must insist that policy development begins with long term risk assessment undertaken for our region, by our region.

As a community we must be courageous. Outcomes of the risk assessment process may well reveal that structural adjustment is necessary. The MDB is over allocated. The climate is becoming warmer. We must choose to take control before we lose control. Riverland Wine members are encouraged to express their ‘water concerns’. This will ensure the effort to create good policy is well focussed. Email your opinion to Riverland Wine.

Read the ACCC’s interim report on the Murray-Darling Basin water markets which was published recently.

Read an interactive article The Sydney Morning Herald published along with a summary video website.

Watch journalist Margaret Simons discuss her Quarterly Essay, Cry Me A River: The Tragedy of the Murray-Darling Basin.

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