POTENTIAL overflows, bureaucratic bungling, and economic damage to already struggling towns looks likely to top the agenda during the Murray Darling Association (MDA) national conference and annual general meeting.
The conference at Barooga, held yesterday and today, saw government, schools, community, and natural resource agencies meet on the theme "it's in the balance", referencing the MDA push for a balanced delivery of the controversial Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The plan would reallocate 2750-gigalitres to environmental flows - believed to be about 20 per cent of irrigation water from farms.
Struggling farmers said the plan takes too much water too quickly, with stakeholder groups foreshadowing severe impacts on livelihoods, rural businesses, and mental health due to falling land productivity.
Albury City Council mayor Kevin Mack - who was represented at the conference by Cr David Thurley and Cr Bradley Ferris - questioned the sense of releasing 25 megalitres of water daily from a half-empty Hume dam with an impending El Nino season upon the country.
"It doesn't make sense. All for what benefit? To keep the river fresh and alive? Well there won't be any water left in the river at our end when they're finished," Cr Mack said.
"If the weir was 100 per cent full I would understand that, but it's at 49pc. The irrigators aren't buying it. The price of water is too dear. The allocations aren't being taken up by the irrigators because they're not prepared to take the risk to plant the crops.
"It's quite confusing."
In July a Basin communities' meeting heard producers had lost faith in the plan, with constituents arguing local knowledge was being ignored to the despair of regional economies.
Deniliquin rice farmer Shelley Scoullar called for the plan to be paused.
"We want it paused because the triple bottom line ... the socio-economic part of the plan, has not been properly addressed," Mrs Scoullar said.
"(The Plan) is putting too much strain on our irrigation system. If any more comes out, it is just going to make our irrigation delivery companies unviable.
"Our community is really feeling it at the moment. We are really worried."
Mrs Scoullar said the impending dry season was more reason to put the plan on hold.
"We're coming into an unprecedented time. Since the Plan has been implemented, this is the first time we've had a dry-ish season.
"Farmers are innovative and passionate, and they want to be efficient and help the environment.
"We love our environment, we want to take care of it, we want to find a solution where everyone can move forward."
Narrandera Shire councillor Jim Howard called for more consistency in environmental flows.
"The farmers I speak to are wor- ried about the timing of the flows, and that they don't get much advance notice," Cr Howard said.
"The government and the water commissions complain there is never enough water to give to the irrigators, and then all of a sudden they are wasting it."
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