Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Farmers to take a gamble with water

With just a three per cent increase in water allocations across the Murray Valley, farmers have had to re-think their summer watering programs.

ZOE MCMAUGH August 6, 2014 3:50am

Farmers will need to ‘‘take a gamble’’ on summer watering programs with water allocations in the Murray Valley increasing by only three per cent on Friday.

Southern Riverina Irrigators chair John Bradford said the increase to 12 per cent of general security allocations was less than was hoped.

With challenging water storage and weather conditions ahead, Mr Bradford said there were some uncertainties for farmers.

He said there were also some positives for the year ahead, which he said points to a ‘‘normal’’ irrigation year.

‘‘With all the water in the dams (Dartmouth and Hume) I thought we would have more (of an allocation),’’ Mr Bradford said.

‘‘It’s going up and it’s only a start, but I would have hoped for a minimum of 15 per cent.

‘‘It’s hard to organise a summer program with this announcement, so there’ll be a lot of gambling going on.

‘‘There are some positives in that there is a lot of snow in the hills and the system is all very wet, which still needs to be taken into account.

‘‘With that snow and a couple of good rainfalls, we could be okay.’’

NSW Office of Water forward projections for October 2014 show the maximum likely allocation will be 56 per cent of entitlement. It predicts a 50 per cent chance of that occurring.

NOW predicts a 90 per cent chance of very dry conditions, which would lead to another modest increase to only 19 per cent by October 1.

It predicts a 75 per cent chance the allocation will be increased to 38 per cent of entitlement by October 1.

‘‘We did have below average rainfall in July across the region, but when you look back even a few years ago we can see that it’s not as bad as the drought years,’’ Mr Bradford said.

‘‘One ongoing concern is Menindee (Lake) being so low – the two high dams (Hume and Dartmouth) are near full but Menindee is low.’’

Low levels at Menindee mean restrictions for trading out of the Murrumbidgee remain closed, with trade to and from the Lower Darling now also closed.

Mr Bradford said farmers also need to be mindful of continuing frosts damaging crops.

‘‘We have been lucky that the weather has been mild and good for growing, but there are some concerns about early flowering canola.

‘‘We have had a few frosts and we will get a few more before winter is over.

‘‘There has been some frost damage to those early crops, but we don’t yet know the full extent.

‘‘What we don’t want is big frosts and dry winds.’’

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