A 14 per cent increase in water allocations was announced for NSW Murray general security irrigators this morning.
Murray irrigators were disappointed to receive a zero per cent increase at the last allocation announcement - despite Hume Dam nearing full capacity and minor floods along the Murray River - and calls for more transparency when it comes to allocation decision-making have been growing.
- Hume Dam and Menindee Lakes have filled
- Southern Basin irrigators pursue highest-value crops to survive boom and bust
The 14pc increase puts NSW Murray general security irrigators at 44pc of their entitlement and including carryover water, availability is now approximately 87pc of entitlement. High security allocations are at 97pc.
This morning's allocation announcement from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE) said the resource available to NSW has improved by approximately 335,000 megalitres since the last assessment.
"Airspace releases have resulted in approximately 120,000ML of the Barmah-Millewa Environmental Water Allowance (BMEWA) spilling, with the revised balance now 230,000ML," the statement read.
"With the BMEWA liability now settled, general security allocation can continue to accrue.
"It is estimated that future improvements equating to around 22pc increase in general security is all that is needed to reach full general security allocations."
The statement said airspace releases and tributary inflows continued to create unregulated flow conditions across the Murray Valley and provide supplementary access.
"The unregulated flows are also being used to meet Additional Dilution Flow requirements to South Australia, as required by the Murray Darling Basin Agreement."
It also highlighted the plan for the Menindee Lakes System now it has reached full capacity.
"Under current forecasts, the MLS (Menindee Lakes System) will be surcharged and then drawn down to full supply level (100pc) during summer. Where possible, any drawdown releases will be used to meet demands," the allocation statement read.
Murray Irrigator chairman Phil Snowden said the allocation statement was "concerning for growers".
"We are disappointed that the water allocation remains low at 44pc. This is a critical time for our farmers across the Murray valley who are watering winter crops and ordering seed for summer plantings," Mr Snowden said.
"Most of the dams are full.
"The calculated probabilities for future allocation improvements this month are far more realistic than there were in August, however, they still appear to be very conservative.
Meanwhile, Murrumbidgee irrigators saw another zero per cent increase keeping general security allocations at 52pc.
"With full storages, airspace is not available to capture new resources and substantially improve resources to facilitate further allocations," the Murrumbidgee allocation statement read.
"However, as demand ramps up in the coming weeks, it is expected that allocations will improve significantly on the back of higher than minimum inflows."
Inspector-General review on NSW Murray operations underway
Inspector-General of Water Compliance Troy Grant has said he is conducting a review into the operation of the Murray and lower Darling Rivers and will look into some of the key drivers of allocation decisions.
These include how well water is being measured and modelled at both the Basin and valley scale for conveyance losses and bulk state water shares.
There will also be an assessment of hydrometric data coverage and quality, and associated data analysis processes.
Mr Grant said NSW Murray and Murrumbidgee stakeholders, including the Ricegrowers Association, had made representations to him new seeking greater transparency for water allocation determinations.
"What is clear is that NSW water allocations are a longstanding area of concern," Mr Grant said last week.
"There is more than a century of negotiations and agreements which underpin how water is shared on the Murray.
"I caution against thinking there is a quick fix or simple changes to be made immediately.
"It is a fully allocated system which means to give to one you must take from another."
However, he acknowledged that water users wanted a better understanding on the levers that drive general allocation decision making.
"I also acknowledge the frustrations of farmers in these districts who are looking to recover from difficult years with low inflows and low allocations," Mr Grant said.
"They know that being better informed will assist them in making cropping decisions in the future.
"Allocation issues are symbolic of a range of stakeholders' concerns in the NSW Murray region. As such, I have already commissioned various pieces of work to systemically assess the effectiveness and performance of State and Commonwealth water agencies."
Along with a review into the operation of the NSW Murray and Lower Darling, Mr Grant's office will review the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder's (CEWH) processes for planning, managing and delivering environmental water each year; and former Victorian Auditor-General Des Pearson will conduct a detailed analysis on each Basin jurisdictions water compliance system.
"On top of these projects, we'll also be meeting with and listening to people on this issue. I have recently appointed field officers based in Mildura (Vic), Albury (NSW) and Loxton (SA)...
"Combined with the outcomes of our reviews, I expect this will show some clear next steps."
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