This region’s irrigators have been among the world’s best for 60 years at least. As a collective group they have been focused on water use efficiency since the 1960s when the cap on Murray River extractions was first legislated. They have consistently been at the forefront of new water delivery infrastructure and irrigation technology. They have taken responsibility for salinity management with salinity zoning and salt interception schemes.
They have invested their own funds with Governments and over the decades and they have managed their own irrigation trusts. More recently, this region’s irrigators led the charge in the prelude to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. They lobbied for fair recognition of the leadership and careful custodianship of our scarce water resources for decades before it became trendy.
But all that collective achievement amounts to naught, if you are an irrigator getting older and poorer. Market forces are beavering away twenty-four seven, making sure there is no let up. Besides being responsible custodians, irrigators must be wily commercial managers. The surging price of temporary and permanent water, driven by a relentless El Niño and a range of market forces is only moving in one direction; up.
In recent years many of our members have declared that ‘if the price of water hits three-grand a Meg, I’m out-of-here’. It’s been nudging that mark now for a week or two. Some are being reminded. Others are being tempted. Those who have recently responded to the lure of SARMS dollars for development, in exchange for water rights have seen the commercial sense of realising more than the traditional value for their water assets. But the markets are boring in hard. Irrigators at the top of their commodity curve are confident they can afford to lease in the water they need.
Many of those caught at the bottom, or half way up are wondering if they should sacrifice this year’s crop, lease their water out and manage their financial risk differently. If you are in a water dilemma right now, you are not alone.
If you would like to talk with others and get on the front foot again, contact Riverland Wine and support the call for a general meeting to discuss realistic options – phone 8584 5816 or email