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Within the IPART pricing review details revealed the metering reform policy established by the NSW Government in 2019, is not meeting its promised objectives.

“We’ve been watching the train-wreck that is the implementation and administration of the NSW metering policy and working on solutions, to iron out barriers to compliance[1]” said Mrs Lowien.

“Detail in the attachments of the IPART review has highlighted the policy is also failing to meet expected efficiency or cost savings too” she said.

“IPART has had to blend metering administration charges because it was going to be more expensive for customers to have telemetry ".

“The Government telemetry system is a complete farce, it’s not integrated properly within Government systems, water users cannot connect or utilise the data easily and now, IPART have also exposed there’s no financial savings or benefits either” she said.

 [1] Document in the comprehensive barriers to compliance document by NSWIC https://www.nswic.org.au/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2021/09/2021-09-01-NSWIC-Report-on-Barriers-to-Metering-Compliance-FINAL-.pdf

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The Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) NSW handed down their new pricing structure for water charges in NSW to start from 1 October 2021 with no good news for farmers, struggling to recovery from the drought and the reform costs for metering already.

“The details within the determination confirms that Gwydir water users will see significant pricing change increases across the valley for the next four years.”

“The only water user to see a reduction in overall charges are inland groundwater users, largely due to cost shifting between agencies.”

“High security and unregulated users are the hardest hit with 46% and 66% increase in some charges respectively.  General security and supplementary users are not free from increases, usage charges for them increase 34%[1]” she said.

“There are also significant increases in administration charges through WaterNSW which the GVIA warn anyone with a water approval to be aware of the increase” said Mrs Lowien.

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The recent resource assessment has increased general security allocation to 69.3% for the Gwydir Valley.  Copeton Dam is at 82% capacity and rising. 
A stark contrast to this time last year, when Copeton Dam was at 16% capacity. 
Total water available for general security irrgators in Copeton is 496,000ML with  213,000ML for held environmental water accounts, including the ECA.  This water is in the bank, so to speak and can be carried over if it is not needed this year.   All high security and other essential supplies are 100% and fully secured for two years.

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In a scathing investigative report released today [HERE], NSW Irrigators’ Council found the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment-Water (DPIE-Water) and WaterNSW had failed to execute their administrative and technical responsibilities effectively.
 
“The industry supports this reform, which requires water users to upgrade their meters to a new, world-leading standard,” NSWIC CEO Claire Miller said.
 
“But irrigators are fed up with being blamed for non-compliance by deadlines while DPIE-Water and WaterNSW get away with glossing over the scale and impact of their poor planning.

GVIA helped inform the report and has been advocating to various Department's now for years, to address these barriers.

Executive Officer Zara Lowien said "We've been collating and communicating these issues directly to government for years, trying to work constructively, encourage action and implement the reform".

"But now,  water users are receiving NRAR advisory letters becuase the government has failed to provide them an approved device to install".

"Its not good enough to tell us the market will respond or don't worry,  just "evidence" your effort."

"Water users are sick and tired of providing "evidence" on multiple occasions, to multiple NRAR employees that don't even seem to speak to each other or keep this "evidence".  

"Water users just actually want to be compliant but the government agencies are letting them down".

"Enough is enough, its time they step up if they want this reform to work" she said.

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The NSW metering rules apply to all works and compliance will be assessed against your work approval - not what is in the ground and whether you use it or not.  If you do not actively use these works or do not have any infrastructure installed, you are not required to have a meter.
Before a work will be tagged as inactive, YOU MUST demonstrate the work is not physically capable of taking water and REGISTER your work as inactive.  This is done through WaterNSW.
Registering your work inactive will ensure you avoid being non-compliant to these rules by the relevant due date; either 1 December 2020 for larger than 500mm sites or 1 December 2021 for all other sites.   This applies to both surface and groundwater works. 

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The realities of metering statistics are very different to the story being communicated by NRAR.  

Valley based tracking of progress is available via NRAR and is presented on our new page below.  Here we also capture the key barriers encountered by different users in these different categories.  We thank everyone for their efforts to comply and despite some of the media coverage, we encourage you to keep up the good work. 

There will be significant challenges for Stage 2 - administratively, as well as in terms of resourcing with 7,601 istes in the northern inland required to be compliant to the new rules by 1 December 2021.  Please do not leave contacting a DQP if you are in this next stage to the last minute.

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WaterNSW would like to remind customers that supplementary water is available with unregulated inflows occuring downstream of Copeton Dam.  

These flows are providing water right along our river systems, the first 500ML/day are being delivered to the wetlands but any flows greater than that are being shared 50:50 between the environment and customers.  WaterNSW indicated downstream tributary inflows greater than the minimum flow to the wetlands are being diverted away from this area where possible, unless ordered by customers.  These rules and this operations, are enabling sharing of flows along our rivers and and beyond with more than 40,000ML flowing past Collarenbri from the Mehi alone this last month.  

Contact WaterNSW via email at RiverOpsNorth@waternsw.com.au, or alternately by contacting Roger Hunt or Ken Gee.  

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Copeton Dam has been rising since December 2020 since catchment wide rainfall began to fall with around 600GL of inflows over this time.  This rising  trend is being followed right around NSW, with the current state-wide storage capacity at 74% (Copeton Dam just below the state average at 63%).

However, percentages don't tell the whole story in the context of total water available around the state. 

The northern basin has 71% availability equalling, 1,982GL of water, the central west is above the state average at 75% with 2,230GL of water available and the souther basin also above the state average at 77% full has 8,876GL of water available. We set up a new page on our website to explore this here.

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Irrigators argue NRAR's statement was misleading given some works fell into that category due to factors outside their control - such as back-log in the supply and installation of government-approved meters and telemetry equipment.

Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) announcing they were taking enforcement action after statewide inspections found 45 per cent of inspected pumps were still not fitted with compliant meters.

GVIA said: "Its hard to be compliant to new rules when in some instances there isn't an approved replacement meter available or if your still waiting for it to arrive after ordering it.  Many of these replacement meter jobs you cannot just buy a meter and stick it in a pipe, they're custom built and designed and take significant planning and lead time.
 We'd like to thank our local service providers for their perseverance with these new rules, your patience in trying to solve these complex problems bought about by a poorly formed set of rules.  We are grateful for all your effort for the industry so far. "

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The resource assessment for Copeton Dam up to 30 June 2021 was made available with the first allocation for the year being granted to general security water users and the ECA of 11.1%.  This bring the irrigation total water availability for this year, including carry over to 264,400ML while environmental accounts hold 125,600ML. 

Supplementary water announcements are also ongoing with inflows below Copeton Dam being shared 50:50 with the environment after the first 500ML are provided to the Gwydir Wetlands.  

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NSW DPIE - Water announced starting allocations for the 2021-22 water year, on 1 July 2021.
All groundwater and surface water users received their 1ML per unit share allocation, OTHER THAN general security users who are likely to receive a new resource assessment later this month and supplementary water users who received only 0.5ML per unit share.  This is the first time supplementary licences have been reduced below 1ML per unit share, and is in response to the recent disallowance of the government's proposed regulations to reduce, measure and account for floodplain harvesting in our water sharing plan see our previous media release.
General security carry over of  214,000ML from allocations previously will be available for this new year.

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The Land's Olivia Calver reported: Gwydir Valley irrigators have hit out at the NSW Parliament after supplementary water users in the Gwydir and Border Rivers were informed their allocations would be reduced, as an apparent consequence of floodplain harvesting regulations being disallowed.

The floodplain harvesting regulations were disallowed by the NSW Upper House last month, with the opposition and cross-bench calling for downstream targets to be established before the government is given "a blank cheque" for floodplain harvesting legislation.


NSW Water Minister Melinda Pavey appeared to confirm the supplementary water restriction was a result of the disallowance in a statement from her office.

"Until floodplain harvesting licences and rules are implemented, any unmanaged growth in water use will have to be offset through reduced allocations for supplementary water licences, in line with Water Sharing Plan rules," the statement read.

"The FPH policy and regs apply to all water users across NSW."

Making Every Drop Count

Securing a future for the Gwydir Valley through Irrigated Agriculture.