Environmental Water And Management
Following the 30-years of water policy reform agenda, water ownership in most regions, demands and behaviours have modified as to incorporate water usage for environmental water management, as well as water usage for production. For more information on the reform agenda, please view a History of Water Reform by the GVIA.
In the Gwydir Valley, the NSW and Commonwealth environmental water managers are now actively responsible for:
- 28.5% of high security entitlement;
- 29% of general security entitlement; and
- 13% of supplementary entitlement.
These percentages reflect held environmental water in either NSW Contingency Allowances, NSW Government or Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder portfolios.
These held entitlements are in addition to planned environmental water provisions included in various water sharing plans in the valley. For example, in the Gwydir Regulated River, 19% of the long-term annual flows of the river system are available for extraction by users - and this includes the sharing of all supplementary flows 50:50 between the environment and users. Or in the groundwater systems where 85% of the sustainable yield is available for extraction, resulting in a 55% reduction in groundwater entitlements.
Historically, irrigators have had a declining and finite water resource to access, whereas environmental water users having increasing portfolios of water to achieve environmental outcomes.
The GVIA aims to make every drop count by ensuring that irrigators are utilising our precious resource efficiently and effectively. As such, we also take an avid interest in how environmental water managers are using environmental water, and what outcomes they achieve.
We provided our advice to the NSW Government on how to better management environmental water as part of their Water Reform Action Plan. We commented that while there remain several barriers to developing agreed strategies to improve environmental management, an informed discussion on how we respect all water user’s rights to utilise their water; either irrigators or the environment must occur. Community expectation demands this, just as they asked irrigators to do more with less, they now are building towards the same for the environment.
We must quickly learn from experience in regions like the Gwydir Valley, with a long-history of environmental water management but also explore practical options, within the legislative framework, rather than seeking short-term solutions outside this framework.
The GVIA is concerned that environmental outcomes will continue to be undermined if complementary non-flow measures are not included in water management approaches. We also advocate broader natural resource management improvements within our river basins. In response, we established our #ColdFish campaign to build awareness around the issue of cold water pollution. The campaign aims to highlight the need to recognise and address the issue of cold water pollution so that real environmental benefits can be achieved in our valley, and others.
Our submissions on issues relating to the management and use of environmental water can be accessed here.
The GVIA is a member of the local Gwydir Environmental Contingency Allowance Operational Advisory Committee, administered by NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. This committee was established under the Water Sharing Plan for the Gwydir Regulated River Water Source and provides advice to water managers and Ministers on the use of environmental water locally. More information on the ECAOAC and their governing plans and usage is available at the NSW OEH website .
For more information on Commonwealth plans and monitoring visit the Commonwealth Environmental Water Office website.
It is also our priority to engage directly with environmental water managers on opportunities to collaborate water deliveries, identify local environmental issues and address delivery constraints.