Connections written off in new report

By Geoff Adams

The Sefton report into socio-economic impacts in the Murray-Darling Basin appears to write-off outcomes of the northern Victorian Connections program.

The draft report says: "There is little evidence of the outcomes of off-farm infrastructure programs.”

However, G-MW says the Connections modernisation project has captured audited annual water savings of 429 Gl, increased system efficiency and reduced the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District footprint by about 1500 km.

G-MW managing director Charmaine Quick said the project had contributed towards increased efficiencies leading to a forecast price decrease of 10 per cent for most customers, in the next four years’ pricing submission.

“Ten years ago, G-MW’s infrastructure lost up to 900 Gl of water a year,” she said.

“Recovery of water via the GMID buyback would have a negative impact on productivity.

“Off-farm infrastructure has avoided buybacks within the GMID by retaining water for productive use and therefore helping the region to adjust.”

The Sefton report says off-farm programs seek to reduce water losses from irrigation networks. Under the Federal Government programs, more than 900 km of irrigation network delivery channels have been upgraded. Off-farm programs preceded on-farm programs in some systems such as the GMID.

“The advantage of recovering water by enhancing off-farm infrastructure is that this approach does not diminish the consumptive pool,” according to the report.

“However, the recent review by the Productivity Commission reported no clear evidence that off-farm investments are improving productivity for irrigators or irrigation infrastructure operators.

“Nevertheless, it did identify evidence that off-farm projects are typically more expensive per megalitre and more complex than on-farm works. While upgrades reduce water utility labour force requirements, they may also create future depreciation and maintenance liabilities that need to be funded through IIO fees and charges,” the report stated.