Water Matters - Issue 11
The Hon Tony Burke MP
Senator the Hon Don Farrell
“Creating a sustainable Australia for this generation and those to come will be challenging and rewarding.”
Tony Burke is the newly appointed Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, with Senator Don Farrell appointed as the new Parliamentary Secretary for Sustainability and Urban Water.
The second Gillard Ministry was sworn in on 14 September and the department underwent a name change, becoming the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Minister Burke, who served as Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister for the past three years, says conserving and protecting Australia’s natural environment is a passion of his.
“I look forward to the challenges and opportunities of water reform in Australia. Adjustment will not be easy, there must be consideration of environmental flows, food production and the future of rural communities.”
Senator Farrell, born in Murray Bridge, South Australia, was elected as a Senator for South Australia in 2007. Senator Farrell will be responsible for urban water issues including desalination and stormwater harvesting.
Spring 2010 environmental watering
This Spring, the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder will begin delivering more than 25 gigalitres of environmental water to ten sites across the Murray-Darling Basin. For more information on environmental watering visit: www.environment.gov.au/water/policy-programs/cewh/index.html
“Helping the public and residents of the Basin understand and take part in this process, and share with them information we have to manage resources, is our biggest task and commitment.”
Rob Freeman CEO, Murray-Darling Basin Authority
On 8 October, the Murray-Darling Basin Authority released its Guide to the proposed Basin Plan. The Plan aims to sustain the future of one of Australia’s most diverse and rich natural systems that directly supports more than three million people.
The Guide to the proposed Basin Plan is the first part of a three-stage process, which also includes the ‘proposed Basin Plan’ and the ‘Basin Plan’.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority is responsible for preparing and overseeing the Basin Plan, a legally-enforceable management plan for the Basin’s water resources — which are under enormous strain as a result of prolonged drought, climate change and past water extraction decisions that took too much water out of the Basin’s rivers.
A key element of the plan is the sustainable diversion limits, which will limit the quantity of surface and groundwater that can be taken from Basin water resources.
What is the Guide?
The Guide provides information about the Authority’s current proposals so that people can provide feedback.
The Guide provides an opportunity for people across the Basin to receive information and give feedback on the proposals it contains.
Opportunities for providing feedback include:
- regional community information sessions across the Basin, Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
- state and Commonwealth agency briefings
- meetings with the Northern Murray-Darling Basin Aboriginal Nations and Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations
- technical briefings with peak bodies in Canberra including industry, conservation, local government, banking and property professionals
- attendance at appropriate stakeholder organised meetings, conferences and events
- an online science forum, email alerts, posting what is being said on the Authority’s website and ongoing communication and media.
The Authority is keen to receive feedback on the Guide. All feedback received on the Guide before the end of November 2010 will be considered in drafting the proposed Basin Plan.
The proposed Basin Plan
The release of the proposed Basin Plan early next year will signal the start of a formal 16-week consultation process during which time the Authority will accept public submissions, which it will consider when finalising the Basin Plan.
“No final decisions have been made. In the coming months we are completely open to comment, criticism, feedback and suggestions. We encourage everyone with an interest in the future sustainable management of the Murray-Darling Basin’s water resources to read the proposed Basin Plan and have their say,” Mr Freeman said.
When the Authority has taken all comments into account and finalised the Basin Plan, the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council will consider it, together with the Authority’s assessment of the socioeconomic implications of any reductions in diversion limits. The Authority will then present the Basin Plan to the Federal Water Minister for consideration.
For more information
Visit the Authority’s website at www.mdba.gov.au , phone 1800 230 067 (free) or write to the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, GPO Box 3001, Canberra ACT 2601.
Providing healthy, safe and reliable water supplies and wastewater services is vital to the health of communities in remote Australia.
Photo: D. Markovic DSEWPaC
Remote communities make up 2.4 per cent of Australia’s population, of which nearly 23 per cent is an Indigenous population.
Delivering water and wastewater services to remote locations is costly, with water availability and quality often an issue. To address the disadvantages some remote communities face, the Australian Government is providing $51.7 million in funding for 18 projects to help deliver the objectives of the COAG Strategy on Water and Wastewater Services in Remote (including Indigenous) Communities.
More than 17,000 people in 17 communities across the Northern Territory, South Australia, New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia will benefit.
The projects are being funded under the National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns program and will provide sustainable, secure, and safe water supplies and wastewater services. Projects include increasing water storage capacity, upgrading or replacing key infrastructure such as pipelines, and improving wastewater treatment facilities.
The funding will also support water supply system management, develop water conservation programs and encourage responsible water use.
“Participation in water markets has given irrigators much needed flexibility in how they run their farm businesses during tough times, helping them to improve cash flow, retire debt and manage risk.”
Mr Lawrence Arthur, National Water Commission
Water trading is providing significant economic, social and environmental benefits across the southern Murray-Darling Basin, according to the National Water Commission’s Impacts of water trading in the southern Murray-Darling Basin report.
The report presents a comprehensive assessment of the impacts of water trading from mid-1998 to mid-2009, a decade marked by severe and prolonged drought.
Mr Lawrence Arthur, Commissioner with the National Water Commission, said the report shows water trading is a major success story for water reform in Australia.
“Without the ability to trade water, the impacts of drought in the region would have been much worse for individuals and rural communities,” Mr Arthur said.
Economic modelling for the report estimated water trading in the southern Murray-Darling Basin added $220 million to Australia’s GDP in 2008-09; with net production benefits of $79 million in New South Wales, $16 million in South Australia, and $271 million in Victoria.
Water trading has also contributed to securing critical urban water needs in Adelaide, Bendigo and Ballarat.
The Commission has agreed to reassess the impacts of trade in 2012.
Overall, the report contains 37 findings for consideration by the Australian Government and southern Basin states via the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council.
Portraying a strong sense of place for Lake Eyre Basin residents and a story of discovery for those who want to learn more about the region, the second edition of the Lake Eyre Basin poster map portrays the Basin’s most significant historical, cultural, hydrological, economic and biological features.
This large, colourful poster contains photos and diagrams with detailed captions and information about the Basin’s rivers and wetlands, plants and animals, climate, terrain, towns, homestead, Aboriginal lands, parks and reserves, land use, and natural resources.
The new edition was produced in partnership between the Lake Eyre Basin Ministerial Forum and Desert Channels Queensland Inc. All proceeds from the sale of the new map will go towards activities that raise awareness of this unique part of Australia at a regional, national and international level.
The poster (1108mm x 867mm) is $25.00 for Basin residents and $40.00 for all others (plus postage and packaging). It can be purchased from Desert Channels Queensland Inc., (07) 4658 0600, 92 Galah St, Longreach, Queensland. Non-sales enquiries can be directed to the Lake Eyre Basin Communications Officer, Michelle Rodrigo, (08) 8951 9255, or firstname.lastname@example.org
“These projects will enable industry growers to enhance their water use efficiency.”
Liz Mann, Australian Processing Tomato Research Council
Australia’s thriving tomato processing industry contributes up to $38 million a year to the local economy. With 23 growers located in northern Victoria and southern New South Wales, the industry supports more than 80 full time staff across several farms and three primary processing sites, seasonally employing upwards of 250 casual employees a year.
In August 2010, the Australian Processing Tomato Research Council Inc. signed a funding agreement worth $11.71 million with the Australian Government for 21 irrigator sub-projects to improve water use efficiency.
Liz Mann, Industry Development Manager at the Council said the sub-projects will bring many benefits to the industry by converting flood and furrow irrigation to sub-surface drip irrigation.
“By using sub-surface irrigation where water is applied directly to the root of the plant, water is saved from evaporation and wastage, making large improvements in water savings across the Goulburn, Murrumbidgee and NSW Murray catchments,” Ms Mann said.
“We expect these sub-projects will generate annual water savings of up to 4,000 megalitres, of this, 2,000 megalitres will be transferred to the Commonwealth for environmental purposes.”
Upgrading the irrigation infrastructure will increase the long-term viability and sustainability of the Australian processing tomato industry, resulting in not only less water being used on crops but also an increase in the tonnage of tomatoes per megalitre. With an increased area of sub-surface drip irrigation on farm, several rotational crops such as cereals, canola and lucerne will also be irrigated using sub-surface drip, producing greater yields.
The $300 million On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency program is aimed at assisting irrigators in the Lachlan and southern connected system of the Murray-Darling Basin to modernise their on-farm irrigation infrastructure while returning water savings to the environment.
Tanzanian Minister for Water, Hon. Prof Mark Mwandosya with DSEWPaC First Assistant Secretary, Mr Tony Slatyer
Australia’s water resource management and water reform is highly regarded on the international stage.
The Department recently hosted visiting delegations from Tanzania, the United States and China.
The Tanzanian delegation, lead by the Minister for Water and Irrigation, the Hon. Prof. Mark Mwandosya, used their visit to focus on best practice in the water sector, improve their own governance structures and build the capacity of their key decision makers.
The delegation was also interested in Australian irrigation efficiencies and applying the lessons we have learnt to the Tanzanian agricultural industry.
A meeting with a delegation from the Californian Department of Water Resources provided an opportunity to showcase Australia’s approach to water. The meeting gave a particular focus on desalination, urban water, and federal support for state urban water projects.
The Department also used the visit to learn about water management in the US and to promote Australia’s experience in safeguarding this valuable resource.
A recent dinner hosted by the Chinese Embassy, celebrated the strong engagement Australia and China share on water issues. The Minister-Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy, Mr Liang Hong and the Deputy Secretary of the Department, Dr James Horne, acknowledged the Australia-China High Level Water Policy meeting held in Canberra in 2009 as an important platform which deepened the relationship between our two governments on water issues.
The two countries continue to look to one another for solutions, ideas and learning from their respective water experiences and further engagement on water issues is being planned for the future.
DSEWPaC and Austrade staff meet with the Californian Department of Water Resources delegation
Minister-Counsellor, Mr Liang Hong with DSEWPaC Deputy Secretary, Dr James Horne and First Assistant Secretary, Mr Tony Slatyer
To celebrate World Wetlands Day 2011, WetlandCare Australia is once again launching an Australia-wide Art and Photography competition offering categories for children and adults.
We are seeking artworks exploring the theme of Forested Wetlands: their importance and wise use. Entries close 3 December 2010.
Entry forms are available at www.wetlandcare.com.au
An independent review of the WELS scheme was recently undertaken by Dr Chris Guest to consider the appropriateness, effectiveness and efficiency of the scheme after five years in operation.
Dr Guest released a discussion paper and consulted with stakeholders from state and territory governments as well as water utilities, industry and consumer representatives. Public submissions were invited over a four-week period from April to May 2010 with 28 submissions received.
The final report, tabled in Parliament on 13 October 2010, finds the WELS scheme to be a good initiative but makes recommendations targeted at improving its delivery.
An initial response to the review by state and territory governments is likely to be released in the coming months. This will form the basis for stakeholder consultation in forming a final response. Work will begin to implement the review response and finalise arrangements for the scheme’s next phase.
“Australia’s blueprint for water reform, the National Water Initiative, is focused on increasing the efficiency of Australia’s water use, and this award winning irrigation system is a practical example of that.”
Ken Matthews, National Water Commission
L-R Professor Bruce Sutton, Mr Ken Matthews and Associate Professor Greg Leslie
Photo: Courtesy of Australian Museum Eureka Prizes and 247 Studios
An irrigation system that uses a plant’s own energy to filter the salt out of brackish water has won the Peter Cullen Eureka Prize for Water Research and Innovation. The prize is sponsored by the National Water Commission in honour of Professor Peter Cullen’s legacy as one of its founding Commissioners.
The Reverse Osmosis Subsurface Drip Irrigation System developed by Associate Professor Greg Leslie and Professor Bruce Sutton, uses technology and materials already available to farmers in a safe, cost effective way that reduces energy use and water waste.
Ken Matthews, CEO and Chair of the National Water Commission (at the time the award was presented) said the Reverse Osmosis Subsurface Drip Irrigation system offers the prospect of a lifeline for Australia’s irrigation farmers and their crops.
“The Commission believes that this groundbreaking irrigation system has the potential to lead to substantial improvements in the way Australia’s farmers manage and use their water resources,” Mr Matthews said.