The Department for Environment and Water has today provided food producers with early projections for South Australian River Murray irrigation allocations for 2019-20.
The early projections, part of the State Government’s new policy to provide earlier information to irrigators, show that in a worst-case scenario, opening allocations could start as low as 14 percent.
Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs said the initial projections are based on current storage volumes and projected inflow conditions across the River Murray system.
“The minimum allocation projection I have received from my Department reflects the extremely dry conditions that are being experienced across the Murray-Darling Basin this year,” said Minister Speirs.
“This minimum allocation presents what is expected to be a ‘worst-case’ scenario for food producers − allowing them to plan for the worst while we all continue to hope for significant improvements.
“It also reflects our government’s commitment to provide more timely and accurate information when it comes to water allocations.
“Rather than keep this information to ourselves, we want to give our food producers as much information as possible, as early as possible so they can plan ahead.
“The expert advice given to me suggests there is a very high chance of improved water allocations as the main inflow season starts.”
The Department for Environment and Water’s River Murray Water Operations Manager Jarrod Eaton said water allocation projections are determined in accordance with the South Australian River Murray Water Allocation Plan.
“It’s important to remember that this is based on an early projection only. This projection is based on an outlook that assumes conditions across the remainder of 2018-19 will continue to be extremely dry,” said Mr Eaton.
“For example, if conditions across the remainder of the current water year track closer to the long-term average, then the projected opening for 2019-20 would be just over 20 percent.”
“Despite the very low projected opening allocation, significant improvements across 2019-20 are likely. Most inflows to the River Murray system historically occur between July and November, so the main inflow season is yet to arrive.
“The Bureau of Meteorology’s outlook across the Murray-Darling Basin shows there is no strong indication either way towards a wetter or drier than average three months ahead. Regular water allocation updates will be provided and reflect any improved water availability.”
All projections include an extra 50 gigalitres to holders of irrigation licences – in recognition of Adelaide’s access to other sources, including desalination. Compared to the Millennium Drought, this boosts opening irrigation allocations by 8 percent.
Under the rules in the Water Allocation Plan, irrigators will be allowed to carry over un-used allocations from the current year into 2019-20. While allocation water can also be bought for carryover purposes, the total volume of carryover is limited to 20 percent of an irrigator’s entitlement volume.
Allocations are determined in accordance with the South Australian River Murray Water Allocation Plan.
Water availability projections have been prepared as a tool to help irrigators and other water users better understand the likelihood of future improvements in water allocations.
After two consecutive years with low rainfall and inflows across the Murray-Darling Basin, the volume of water in MDBA controlled storages is now below 36 percent of capacity and continues to decline.
The allocation projections are based on current River Murray storage volumes and operational conditions across the Murray Darling Basin and historical rainfall and temperature data.
Further details about allocations and projected water availability for 2019-20 in South Australia can be found in the River Murray Water Allocation Statement.
At this stage, an updated announcement on the minimum opening allocation will be provided by mid-May 2019.
Individuals may only carryover unused volumes up to 20 percent of the volume of Class 3 water access entitlements they hold. The total volume received as allocations against Class 3 entitlements and carryover in 2019-20 cannot exceed 100 percent of the volume of entitlements held.
The Private Carryover policy is outlined in the Water Allocation Plan for the South Australian River Murray.
For more information about these projections, members of the community can visit the Department for Environment and Water’s website.