National Farmers' Federation

To manage water appropriately, measure it properly

WITH drought gripping much of Australia, including the nation’s irrigation regions, the National Farmers’ Federation (NFF) says the critical importance of accurate, timely and widely available water resource data to inform resource and production management is only now getting the attention it desperately needs.
“NFF has been calling on governments to get their act together on water metering and data collection for five years,” NFF President David Crombie said. “While it is disappointing it has taken one of the worst droughts on record to ram home the message, we must now seize this opportunity to get these issues right.
“Previous investment in metering, monitoring and data management systems has clearly been sadly lacking. It must now become a national priority.
“There is now no greater investment priority, as doubts surrounding the efficacy of our current systems are impinging on farmers’ production and investment decisions and the clarity of their water property rights. This will quickly flow-on to loss of productivity with consequences for water efficient use of resources, employment and investment outcomes.
“Farmers have already suffered significant financial losses as a direct consequence of poor data availability – with the NSW Government seizing back water farmers had saved for drought preparedness. This has impacted on water resources decision-making and come at farmers’ expense as no compensation will be paid! Such mismanagement must not be allowed to continue.
“When we look at each of the elements of the National Water Initiative (NWI), there is a critical and immediate need to ensure that water data collection and management systems are world-class.
“For farmers, the provision of a tradable property right is a positive outcome of the NWI. But trading must be underpinned by accurate, timely and publicly available information on supply, demand and trade activity. At the moment, we have precious little of any of the key ingredients to ensure confidence in the water market.
“Australia-wide, farmers are willing to work with governments considering the scope of the investment required and, importantly, to be an integral part of the solution. However, a project of this size does require government leadership and that has, to date, not been forthcoming.
“It is important to understand that farmers’ objectives – to deliver real-time metering of extractions – is an achievable goal. It can, and must, happen quickly if governments are serious about the fundamental imperative of appropriate measuring tools in relation to water resource management at all levels.”

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