Private irrigation districts say they will struggle to deliver Water for Fodder allocations to their members who were successful recipients of the federal government's $98-million program.
The 'Water for Fodder' scheme is the result of a deal with South Australia to provide 100 gigalitres of cheap water for Southern Basin irrigators to grow fodder with, in exchange for the revitalisation of the Adelaide desalination plant.
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Moira Irrigation District chairman Warren Barnett said their irrigation scheme, located between Deniliquin and Moama, had no conveyance water to deliver the 50 megalitre water for fodder packages because they are on a zero per cent general security allocation.
"When the government made this announcement for water for fodder, no one had thought about how the water was going to be delivered," Mr Barnett said.
"Our members expect to be delivered their 50ML of water but we can't get it to them because we don't have the conveyance water to do so."
Mr Barnett said that unlike major irrigation schemes, private irrigation districts did not receive a separate conveyance allocation.
Therefore to deliver the water packages they would either need to buy in water for conveyance or use a large percentage of the 50ML allocated to each successful applicant.
"We bought a quarter of a million dollars of conveyance water in September, if we keep doing that we will go broke and then no one on our scheme will be able to irrigate," Mr Barnett said.
Proposed solution is to use part of South Australia's conveyance allocation
Mr Barnett suggested a solution would be for water that would have been used to convey the 100GL to South Australia, be instead allocated to irrigation schemes so they can deliver the water for fodder.
"Surely if we are taking water destined for South Australia right near the Barmah Choke, the conveyance of that water between the Choke and South Australia should be credited back to the irrigation schemes who are delivering the water for fodder packages," he said.
Geoff Allan, Mathoura, is part of the Moira Irrigation District and was one of the 19 per cent of overall applicants successful in the water for fodder program.
He said he felt lucky to be allocated the $100/ML water but didn't want it to have a negative impact on his irrigation district.
"I don't want to look a gift horse in the mouth but we just don't have the capacity, when we have zero allocation, to deliver 100 per cent of what they're trying to do," Mr Allan said.
"Any water is terrific, we will grow fodder with it but unfortunately for the scheme, it's going to cost them and therefore other members."
He said Mr Barnett's suggestion, to use the water allocated for conveyance to South Australia, was an obvious solution.
However, the federal government disagreed.
Department of Agriculture suggest schemes buy in conveyance water
A Department of Agriculture spokesperson stated it was the responsibility of the farmer to ensure that their irrigation district had sufficient conveyance water.
"As a condition of participation, applicants agreed that they were able to both pay for and receive the water," a spokesperson stated.
"We understand there are a small number of private irrigation districts that do not currently hold any conveyance water.
"In these cases, the district could purchase conveyance water in order to deliver the water to their customers."
The Department of Agriculture said Mr Barnett's suggestion was beyond the scope of the agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australian Governments.
"It should be noted that under the intergovernmental agreements to manage water in the basin, the Victorian and New South Wales governments provide the conveyance water to get South Australia's water to the border," the spokesperson said.