Call to attach conveyance losses to CEWH

By Sophie Baldwin

Barham’s Neil Eagle has a simple solution to give northern Victorian and southern Riverina farmers immediate access to irrigation water.

Mr Eagle is calling for 1000Gl of conveyance losses to be immediately attached to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder instead of the productive irrigation pool.

“Conveyance losses are essentially environmental water anyway and should be allocated as such,” Mr Eagle said.

“The introduction of the Water Act in 2007 gave CEWH the ability to hold water and the losses should be debited against what they truly are — an environmental flow.

“All it takes is a stroke of a pen and the political will to do so.”

Before irrigators receive a single drop of allocation the conveyance losses — 700,000Ml between Hume Dam and the South Australian border, and 300,000Ml between the SA border and Lower Lakes — along with critical human needs and environmental water, must be accounted for.

“In my opinion CEWH should take responsibility for conveyance losses straight away and this would give NSW and Victorian irrigators a 25 to 30 per cent immediate allocation,” Mr Eagle said.

He said conveyance losses had always been attached to the productive pool and it was time for change.

“The immediate issue is we need to get water to our farmers so they can grow feed and fibre for our nation.

“Southern Riverina and Victorian irrigators have the ability to be part of a drought solution, instead of part of the problem, but they need an irrigation allocation to do so.”

Mr Eagle said the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and poor water policy were failing regional communities.

“People are leaving agriculture.

“Dairy farmers are selling herds, the rice industry is stupidly closing down and stock producers can see no future — there are massive losses across regional Australia, and it is unbelievable this is not being recognised and minds are closed to the devastation this is inflicting.”

Mr Eagle has been involved in agriculture for 65 years.

“I have seen a change from optimism and confidence to a place where young generations see no future; eventually common sense will prevail, it’s just not that common at the moment.”

Mr Eagle acknowledged the Murray-Darling Basin Plan was complicated, but said there were "very real" short-term and long-term solutions.

He said dilution flows of 300,000Ml must also be looked at.

“Dilution flows were created when Dartmouth was commissioned based on projected salinity readings of 800 EC.

“That figure has consistently varied between 200 and 400 EC, so more water can be found for irrigation here as well.”

Jerilderie crop farmer and rice grower Peter Burke said Mr Eagle was the only person who was making sense "in this whole mess".

“The government just keeps pouring millions of dollars into this problem and I haven't heard of a single person accessing a single dollar,” Mr Burke said.

“Transferring conveyance losses is the only thing that can help us.

“It is the elephant in the room and gives us immediate access to water in line with where dams are sitting.

“Last year that would have been a 50 per cent allocation and this year 25 per cent.”