Water allocation

It is only about two years ago that much of the Hills and Fleurieu was in the grip of a protracted drought.
Dams were drying up, bores were turning salty and Langhorne Creek grape growers were stranded without water as the level in the Lower Lakes plummeted.
How quickly the memory fades after a couple of seasons of good rainfall have refilled the dams, lakes, creeks and underground water table.
But we shouldn’t forget that hardship of drought because it is precisely why water allocation plans are vital for this district and its future farming success.
Water is a precious and limited resource that must be shared between a range of uses – including the environment.
As our population has grown, so too has demand on our water supplies.
As a State, we know what it means to be on the verge of running out because of drought and because others take too much from the system. The SA Government wants irrigators in the eastern States to take less and become more efficient.
So why then should Hills farmers not be accountable for the amount of water they use? This region is lucky in that its water catchments have not been stretched beyond their limits to the same extent as the Murray-Darling Basin.
We have the opportunity to prevent that – and to avoid the pain of major allocation cuts and water shortages in the future – by acting now to safeguard this resource.
To do that licences and allocations are essential, as are meters to assist irrigators and monitor compliance.
Farmers win because they have a certainty of water supply that cannot be threatened by the development of inappropriate new dams or bores and the over-allocation of the resource.
They will not need a licence to take water for stock and domestic use.
The environment wins because it too gets an allocation, which in turn keeps the system healthy.
But the State Government authors of the water allocation plans for these regions have failed to sell this message to landholders, many of whom still do not know how the changes will affect their farm businesses.
Property owners have already invested thousands to secure their water supply by building and maintaining dams, installing bores and connecting power.
Yet those who need an allocation for irrigation or intensive livestock production still do not know how much water they will receive, how much it will cost to install meters and low-flow bypasses or whether they will get any funding support.
With so many of their questions unanswered, it is no wonder some feel threatened by a bureaucracy they believe does not understand or value their industry.