Water is the lifeblood of our rural communities, supporting the local environment, people and agricultural industries. The water that supports these communities is supplied by an extensive network of natural and augmented water features, comprising over 6.4 million megalitres of water, held in 43,000 water licences.
It is vital this water is supported by the right infrastructure, policy and enforcement settings. At the recent Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council on Water Reform in Canberra, the Queensland Government tabled the Final Report of the Independent Audit of Non-Urban Water Measurement and Compliance. The audit and its findings are a pivotal step in the ongoing water management of the state.
The audit identified the need for a significant improvement of the compliance and information management systems in the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy and recommended a metering standard for both supplemented and unsupplemented water users backed by adequate checks for installation and accurate meters.
Freshwater systems are in serious decline globally and QFF recognises the importance of good metering and responsive irrigation water use information systems to help government manage compliance and ensure irrigators are informed about their water entitlements and their use of available supply. This is a critical given the importance of irrigated land for food production, as just 18% of the world’s cropland is irrigated but accounts for 40% of food production.
The State Government has made a commitment to implement a reform program to address the audit recommendations but, there are no details about how the significant costs of implementing the state-wide program will be met. Queensland irrigators do not have the capacity to shoulder added costs while trying to cope with rising electricity charges and new rural water pricing. The Queensland Government now needs to work closely with QFF, its industry members and local irrigation communities to address how best to implement the reform package without compromising irrigation businesses and their productivity.