New water sale

By Alana Christensen

A multi-million-dollar windfall could be headed into the Victorian Government’s and Victorian Environmental Water Holder’s coffers, as they are set to reap the benefits of high water prices.

Both bodies announced within days of each other that they will release 14Gl and 10Gl respectively onto the water market in a bid to help drought-affected farmers.

The announcements have seen calls from irrigators and the agriculture sector to ensure the water is sold to irrigators, not speculators or those outside the industry.

Yet with the VEWH bound by statutes around how it can sell its water, it said it was unable to control who the water was sold to, nor for how much.

At the current market rate of $490/Ml, the 10Gl offered up by the Victorian Environmental Water Holder and the 14Gl could add an additional $4.9million and $6.86million to their respective bottom lines.

Leitchville dairy farmer Bernice Lumsden said the news had come at the ‘‘11th hour’’ and called on the Victorian Government to only allow the sale of water to those with delivery shares.

‘‘It’s very hard for farmers at the moment. (Water) is an enormous expense and we’re the ones that have skin in the game. We’re the ones that fund the system,’’ she said.

‘‘We have to get all this done within six weeks. If we don’t get our autumn (pasture and cropping) established, it doesn’t matter if it rains.’’

VEWH chairperson Denis Flett said revenue raised from the sale of the water would be invested in projects planned to boost native fish populations in northern Victoria.

‘‘We are very mindful of the circumstances and that some agriculture sectors are struggling,’’ he said.

He said the water holder was a ‘‘silent participant’’ and was obligated to minimise its involvement in the market, with water to be sold through a number of local water brokers.

The Victorian Government will sell 14Gl no longer required for the Connections project, with the water to be offered up for sale in smaller bundles from late March to June.

Ms Neville has also required 75Gl owned by Melbourne water corporations to remain in northern Victoria and be made available to irrigators through the water market.

‘‘Given the ongoing tough conditions our regional and rural communities are facing, we know any additional water we can provide is a welcome boost for those living and working in northern Victoria,’’ Ms Neville said.

The rising price of water has seen many irrigators unable to purchase water, with just 247.7Ml traded last week at $490/Ml according to Waterpool Co-op.

Unsuccessful buyers were offering $400 to $490, but even that wasn’t enough to secure the 2376.3Ml available, with a handful of ambitious sellers taking advantage of the skyrocketing prices, offering 404.2Ml for sale at a range of $495 to $550.

Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed urged Goulburn Murray Irrigation District farmers to take advantage of the 14Gl of water being reallocated from the Connections project to help them tackle the continued dry conditions in the region.