Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, November 2012
Photo: River bank trees
The Australian Government has committed funding for activities that will achieve environmental outcomes additional to those that can be achieved with the Basin Plan recovery target of 2,750GL of environmental water.
These activities will only occur if the project for recovery of additional water has no adverse social or economic impact.
Recovery of additional ‘impact neutral’ water for the environment
The Australian Government has committed funding which aims to recover 450GL of additional water for the environment. This additional volume of water will largely come from on-farm infrastructure upgrades.
It is likely to be delivered through arrangements based on the existing delivery partner model, which operates through a series of competitive funding rounds. Additional projects to be applied in 2016 may be proposed by the states, such as investment in delivery system upgrades, or purchase of surplus water holdings.
The measures to recover additional water for the environment can only occur when the SDL adjustment mechanism has approved them.
On-farm water savings
Acquiring the additional water through efficiency improvements on farm is likely to be the most cost effective method of maximising environmental water recovery without adverse social and economic impacts. It will also help support an efficient and modernised irrigation industry.
The irrigator will receive a modernised on-farm irrigation system, thereby enabling more efficient production to ensure an equivalent or improved productive capacity compared to the pre-project position, albeit with reduced total water holdings.
When will funding be available?
The Australian Government will use the resources in existing programs to ‘bridge the gap’ of 2750GL between current diversions and sustainable diversion limits set under the Basin Plan. Activities to recover water for the environment beyond 2,750GL would only occur after the operation of the SDL Adjustment Mechanism in 2016.
The Commonwealth is providing funding of $1.77 billion to remove constraints and recover an additional 450GL of water.
To confirm the Government’s commitment to achieving enhanced environmental outcomes, the funding for the additional 450GL of environmental water is being directed to a special account with special appropriation. These arrangements could only be amended by the Parliament. Funding for water recovery activities under this special account is expected to be available from 2016.
In the meantime, irrigators in the Southern-connected Basin will be able to apply for Commonwealth funding for on-farm infrastructure modernisation through existing on-farm irrigation efficiency programs which continue to ‘bridge the gap’ to 2750GL.