Water efficiency projects will preserve production and a win for all sides

The state’s peak farming group has welcomed the NSW Water Minister’s plan to avoid disastrous federal water buybacks.

This week, the NSW Government has opened applications for projects under the Federal Government’s $494 million Resilient Rivers Water Infrastructure Program.

Projects under consideration include upgrading existing irrigation infrastructure or installing new, more efficient technology, as well as the opportunity to improve stock and domestic supply to also meet better water use efficiency.

With data recently released by ABARES confirming the Federal Government’s water buybacks would drive up production prices and further squeeze farmers, NSW Farmers Water Taskforce chair Richard Bootle commended Minister Jackson for listening to her rural communities on buyback alternatives.

“Regional communities are still anxious that buybacks are just around the corner, so this announcement is a welcome signal that Minister Jackson is prepared to stick by her promise and stand by NSW Farmers in opposing buybacks,” Mr Bootle said.

“We know that focusing on water savings through both on-farm and off-farm projects will reduce the need to recover water through buybacks, delivering more water to the environment while allowing farmers to do their job and grow our food and fibre.

“Rather than simply removing both water and production from irrigation communities, these efficiency projects will preserve production by funding measures that allow the same production using less water – so it’s a real win on all sides.”

Mr Bootle said there were also avenues to introduce technology or improve efficiencies for water use across delivery or in the industrial space that would ensure water savings without removing water from the productive pool.

“Environmental benefits can be delivered without just sending more water down the system,” Mr Bootle said.

“The NSW Government should also look to how these on and off farm projects could deliver complementary measures, such as dealing with issues like carp, pests and weeds to further enhance the quality of river systems and on-farm environmental assets like wetlands.

“It’s clear the Federal Government isn’t interested in listening to reason, so it’s great to see the NSW Government has outlined how can do its part to not only get a better outcome for the environment, but protect farm production and farming communities.”