Cutbacks fall short for cotton

Cut backs fall short for cotton


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WHILE there has been a mixed bag of reactions across the north in regards to a decrease in water recovery targets in the northern basin, key players have questioned whether the reductions are enough.

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This table, sourced from the MDBA, highlights how much water is required from each valley in the Northern Basin to meet the newly recommended water recovery target.

This table, sourced from the MDBA, highlights how much water is required from each valley in the Northern Basin to meet the newly recommended water recovery target.

WHILE there has been a mixed bag of reactions across the north in regards to a decrease in water recovery targets in the Northern Basin, key players have questioned whether the reductions are enough.

Currently, 272 gigalitres of water has been recovered from the Northern Basin in order to achieve the 390GL water recovery target set for the Murray Darling Northern Basin Plan.

Recently, the Murray Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) recommended a reduction in the water recovery target for the Northern Basin - from 390GL to 320GL.

Despite the decrease to the water recovery, some NSW and Queensland communities are still facing further water buy backs.

Whilst Cotton Australia acknowledged it was clear the government had started to consider complementary methods to improve the river system’s health, general manager, Michael Murray  said they could have concentrated on them more throughout their recommendations.

Mr Murray said Cotton Australia believed the current water recovery levels were adequate where they were and the key to success was improving things like fish passages and wetland management.

The authority said by reducing water recovery targets from 390GL to 320GL, 200 jobs would be spared across the Northern Basin.

Mr Murray said on these same numbers rural and regional communities could still lose up to 450 jobs.

There was no doubt less water would also mean less capability to produce cotton with the rule of thumb that every megalitre of water taken from a cotton growing area reduced production by a bail of cotton, a cost of $500 Mr Murray said.

“There’s no doubt 320GL, but we don’t think they’ve gone far enough to achieve a real triple bottom line,” he said.

An MDBA spokesperson said when making their final recommendations, as well as considering widespread research, they considered what could be done in addition to water recovery to further enhance environmental outcomes and lower social and economic costs.

The spokesperson said listening to input from Northern Basin communities and industries was a critical part of making their recommendations. 

To make their recommendations, the MDBA used results from a number of environmental science and hydrology projects as well as the outcomes of water recovery scenarios and their implications to the triple bottom line.

Valleys including the Namoi and Condamine-Balonne are looking at further water buybacks which could mean more rural job losses for communities.

The Macquarie-Castlereagh and Gwydir valleys are currently over recovered, and the MDBA said if the NSW government updated its planning assumptions, it’s likely the over recovery would increase by 16GL in the Macquarie and 15GL in the Gwydir.

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