National Farmers' Federation

South Australia’s water cuts blow out: NFF analysis

“CUTS to water for food production in South Australia run deeper than the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) headline numbers suggest,” National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) President David Crombie declared today as he revealed new analysis exposing the severity of water cuts in the state.
“This new data is a bitter pill for farmers along the Murray in SA. While the MDBA draft numbers indicate the cuts would be between 26% and max out at 35%, we’ve crunched the numbers over the past week and it’s actually a 46% cut when you look at how it may hit the ground.”
The NFF’s initial SA modelling – with Queensland and Victoria to come – takes the available information on new sustainable diversion limits released by the MDBA last week, then applies an analysis of the way the SA Government may roll them out, assigning and deducting water for specific needs (including Adelaide town water).
“Once you account for how the state may implement the proposed cuts, the water leftover to produce food could reduce to a trickle,” Mr Crombie explained. “We could be looking at cuts in the Murray that would leave farmers with roughly half the water they need to produce crops.
“I defy any business to identify the core element in its production, slash it by 46% and still remain productive. The MDBA’s proposals will belt regional SA, but the spillover impact to jobs in areas like transport, processing and other businesses would ripple through the economy. We’re not just talking about regional towns, this will affect all Australians in every household.
“As our NSW analysis exposed last week, where cuts of up to 89% are foreshadowed in some water products, we’re dismayed that the Authority’s savage cuts could easily be reduced if water-saving environmental works were factored into its modelling.
“Instead of detailing water needs in the Basin, assessing its availability and exploring a range of options to achieve sustainable delivery, the MDBA opted for an equation based on traditional flows… a methodology that belies the seriousness of the issues confronted by all in the Basin – be they irrigators, environmental assets or regional communities.
“Thursday’s announcement of a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Murray-Darling Basin Authority’s ‘Guide to the Basin Plan’ is a circuit-breaker for the public outcry and, hopefully, we can claw back some balance in this debate.
“The NFF has always maintained that this is not a ‘farming versus the environment’ scenario. Farmers are the first to recognise there needs to be change. In fact, we rely on healthy rivers. But we must balance food production, environmental needs and regional communities across the Basin.
“The smart approach is to explore environmental works projects to achieve water-use efficiency that reduce the need for wholesale cuts – so far, the MDBA has done no such analysis and it needs to go back and do the job properly.”
The NFF is currently compiling data for Queensland and Victoria to get the real picture on what the MDBA’s proposals mean for farm production in each state. In the meantime, the NFF’s full SA and NSW data is available below.

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