The current furore over water meters is “putting the water cart before the horse” according to AgForce, who say the State first needs to solve its water security issue.
AgForce’s Water Committee Chair Kim Bremner said although the peak body supported metering as a way of ensuring effective, efficient and equitable use of our most valuable resource, we first needed to make sure we had a secure and adequate water supply.
“A number of recent issues have proven that Queensland desperately needs a water strategy, to enable a planned, long-term approach to delivering, maintaining and paying for vitally needed infrastructure,” Kim said.
“We are Australia’s largest agricultural State on the driest continent on earth and we don’t have a long-term plan for how we are going to ensure our future water needs are met.
“And that goes for urban supply, too, not just for rural areas.
“We have been urging the State Government for years to develop a comprehensive strategy and have actually been working with them to develop components of the final plan, such as water metering.
“However, progress is not as fast as we’d like and we fear that the politicisation of issues like the meters – which don’t actually have to be installed for more than five years – is diverting focus from solving the genuinely urgent and important issues.
“The vast majority of water used in agriculture is already metered – the meters mentioned in the media this week are to measure usage by the last few thousand of the State’s smallest water users.”
Kim, who grows grain and cotton on an irrigated property near Dalby, said water was a strategic asset that needed to be carefully managed to ensure the security, reliability and quality of supply.
“The importance to farming families and rural communities of keeping livestock watered, crops irrigated, and homesteads supplied can’t be underestimated,” he said.
“AgForce’s focus over the next two years is ensuring the State Government’s Rural Water Management Program (RWMP) is practical, based on an accurate assessment of risk, and protected the privacy of water users.
“Although initially focused on Murray Darling Basin catchments, the RWMP will be progressively widened to support fair and sustainable water use across the State in terms of water use measurement, regulation, and compliance.
“It will support users to trade allocations and use water more efficiently and provide more information to the community to increase its confidence in State resource management.
“The RWMP is likely to be another ‘component’ of a more comprehensive water strategy, which is why we have been working so closely with the Government on its development.”
“AgForce will keep a close eye on these developments to ensure the rights of Queensland irrigators are protected.”