10Gl environmental water goes on market

By Country News

Up to 10Gl of environmental water is set to go on the market, with the Victorian Environmental Water Holder selling a small portion of its water allocation to northern Victorian farmers.

Announced on Friday, the Murray allocation will be made available through selected brokers from March this year.

VEWH chairperson Denis Flett said the VEWH’s latest assessment showed all priority environmental watering actions planned for dry conditions could be achieved this year, and there was enough water available to carry over for critical watering in 2019-20.

‘‘We didn’t need all the water we’d set aside to support bird breeding at Barmah Forest this year because only a small number of waterbirds bred,’’ Mr Flett said.

‘‘Our other waterings are progressing well, so we’ve decided to make some unused water available for sale.’’

Mr Flett said the decision to sell was made to manage the VEWH’s available water for the greatest environmental benefit across Victoria.

‘‘We’ve seen the impact of drought and no flows in the Darling River in NSW,’’ he said.

‘‘The VEWH’s critical priority during dry conditions is to make sure environmental flows work to provide refuges for plants and animals, avoid critical loss of species and improve resilience in rivers and wetlands across the state.

‘‘Our assessment of demand and supply of water for the environment indicates there is very little risk that selling this volume of water will affect our ability to provide necessary flows next year.’’

Mr Flett said revenue raised from the sale would be invested in projects planned to boost native fish populations in northern Victoria, such as works to improve fish habitat and movement.

The sale will also support irrigators and other water users ahead of autumn watering.

‘‘We are aware that current market conditions are challenging for many buyers,’’ Mr Flett said.

‘‘Making this water available now will help meet some of the demand for autumn irrigation and carryover into next year.’’

The VEWH flagged that it would consider selling water in northern Victoria in its annual trading strategy released in July 2018.

Water set aside for the environment has strict rules governing its sale, so any trade protects the environment, is in the public interest, and has no adverse impacts on the community.

‘‘We’ll use our experience with trade since 2012 to make sure that our actions won’t have any significant adverse impacts on other water market participants and we will monitor trading conditions over the coming months,’’ Mr Flett said.