Doubt cast over future of Water for Fodder program

By Country News

The future of the Federal Government's Water for Fodder program is in doubt, with no date set for when the remaining water will be released.

The 100 Gl Water for Fodder program was set up by the Federal Government in November to allow farmers in the southern Murray-Darling Basin to apply for 50 Ml parcels of water at a discounted rate of $100/Ml to grow fodder or pasture.

Under the program, the water was to be produced from the Adelaide Desalination Plant and an equivalent amount would be released upstream from the Murray River.

The first round delivered 40 Gl and saw 800 people receive water — including 649 from northern Victoria and the southern Riverina.

The remaining 60 Gl was due to be released in a second round in the 2020-21 watering season, but a review, released on Friday, failed to set a starting date citing insufficient water supply.

“At this time, South Australia does not have sufficient water security based on the current low water availability in the Mount Lofty Ranges and Murray-Darling Basin to permit round two of the Water for Fodder program,” the review said.

“The water supply situation for South Australia will develop over the water year.

“It will not be until after winter and spring inflows that actual water availability for the 2020-21 water year begin to emerge.

“At this point, South Australia will have a better understanding of its ability to deliver upon round two of the Water for Fodder program.”

South Australian Water Minister David Speirs said his government was currently examining the future of the program.

“As we have always said we would review the program before commencing the second round to assess water availability across the Murray-Darling Basin, the impacts of different water-dependent industries and to protect South Australia’s water security,” he said.

Federal Water Minister Keith Pitt has already labelled the Water for Fodder program a success, saying a survey of round one of the program found two-thirds of those surveyed supported the program.

“Stakeholder feedback indicated that 68 per cent of respondents support the Water for Fodder program and 84 per cent of round one applicants said they would apply again if they had the opportunity,” Mr Pitt said.

The Water for Fodder round one review reports are available on the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment’s Water for Fodder page at: agriculture.gov.au/water/mdb/programs/basin-wide/water-for-fodder