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A regional irrigators group is calling for a Royal Commission into the controversial Murray Darling Basin Plan.
The push by Southern Riverina Irrigators comes at the same time as reports of a fish kill on Lake Hume.
According to the Department of Primary Industries in NSW, about 60 dead carp were located in the water near Bowna Arm boat ramp.
Initial reports had suggested there were up to 1800 dead fish.
A cause of the fish kill has not yet been determined, however there are no algal or dissolved oxygen issues noticeable. Fishing mortality is one potential cause, a DPI spokesperson said.
Water allocations have dried up in the crucial fodder growing Southern Murray Darling Basin and irrigators as well as Farrer MP Sussan Ley are urging the federal and state governments to explore every option to free up supply.
As feed becomes ever more scarce as drought rolls on the price of temporary water has tripled to $370 a megalitre in the Murray Valley, more than three times the long term average of $120.
Thirsty crops in the ground could be salvaged, potentially for fodder, but will need another drink before they’re harvested. The crop could benefit drought hit farmers far and wide.
Irrigators acknowledge that finding fresh water in the current climate is easier said than done.
“We’re asking regulators has every possible and creative option been explored to make a parcel of water available to irrigators in the Murray Valley,” said Riverina mixed farmer and Southern Riverina Irrigators chairwoman Gabrielle Coupland.
Drought-stricken farmers have blasted the South Australian government for refusing to turn on the taps at its $1.8 billion desalination plant to ease pressure on water users further up the Murray River.
The South Australian Royal Commission into the Murray Darling Basin Plan this week released an issues paper arguing environmental concerns overrule social and economic considerations in determining the water volume available to irrigation.
Commissioner Bret Walker said the plan’s governing legislation in the Water Act “requires environmental considerations to be paramount, and that economic and social outcomes are irrelevant to the determination of (the environmentally sustainable level of take)”.
Mr Walker’s interpretation calls into question the sustainable diversion limits offset mechanism, which the MDBA determined could reduce water recovery by 605 gigaltires.
Southern Riverina Irrigators questioned the timing of the release.
Riverina communities would be “decimated” if the Senate disallows the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism.
A vote on May 8 to not approve water recovery projects (which are already part of the Basin Plan) would most likely mean 605GL of water for the environment would be pulled from irrigation farmers.
“It will decimate our region. If that’s what they do it will absolutely decimate it,” Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Gabrielle Coupland told The Border Mail.
Data released by the Murray Darling Basin Authority shows irrigation regions have been impacted by water recovery under the Basin Plan.
MDBA executive director Colin Mues said irrigated agriculture in many communities had experienced large changes.
"It was always known that change of the magnitude required to save the basin system would have some unavoidable socio-economic impacts,” he said.
“That is why unprecedented funding of $13 billion was allocated to its implementation.”
Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Gabrielle Coupland said it was testament to the ability of farmers to be able to continue to be productive in the face of such significant changes in irrigation areas.
The ‘‘political reality of water policy’’ has become more evident to Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Gabrielle Coupland following a meeting with Labor environment spokesman Tony Burke in Canberra on Monday.
Irrigators will use Wednesday’s Murray-Darling Basin Royal Commission visit to Albury to remind South Australia the Basin Plan is bigger than one state.
The South Australian Government set up the Royal Commission in January to inquire into the operations and effectiveness of the Murray Darling Basin Plan.
It is among a growing list of inquiries and reviews into the Murray Darling Basin Plan which covers Queensland, NSW, Victoria and South Australia.
“We will be highlighting how much NSW has done, we’ll also be highlighting that it is a Basin Plan, not a South Australian Plan,” Southern Riverina Irrigators chair Gabrielle Coupland told The Border Mail.