THE purchase of the land and water entitlements from 11 property owners near Balranald will almost fulfil the NSW government’s commitment under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
Agreement on the significant water saving project in the Nimmie-Caira area of the lower Murrumbidgee flood plain was announced by the Federal Enviroment Minister Mark Butler and NSW Primary Industries Minister Katrina Hodgkinson late Thursday.
The Federal government has agreed to provide $180 million to NSW to buy the land and water entitlements with 381,000 megalitres of supplementary Murrumbidgee water to benefit wetlands and floodways.
Under the agreement, water entitlements used for flood irrigation will be transferred to the Commonwealth for environmental use and a long-term average of 173,000 megalitres will be delivered to wetlands each year.
It will reduce the need to buy water entitlements from other areas in the Murrumbidgee Valley that includes extensive permanent plantings and irrigation infrastructure.
It has been welcomed by the Rice Growers Association of Australia and been described as a “win-win” situation by the Riverina and Murray Regional Organisation of Councils.
RAMROC chairman Cr Terry Hogan said the purchase of 173 gigalitres of environmental water was a win-win for the Murrumbidgee region.
“That large quantity of water entitlement purchase will certainly go a very long way towards bridging the diversion limit gap under the Murray Darling Basin Plan for the Murrumbidgee Valley and this will therefore take pressure off other areas that would otherwise have needed to be targeted,” he said.
Ricegrowers president Les Gordon said getting the project finally approved has been a long road, but one that is set to benefit the Murrumbidgee Valley significantly.
“The 173,000 megalitres of water savings will go a long way towards ‘bridging the gap’ in the Murrumbidgee which almost completely reduces the need to purchase any more water entitlements in this valley,” Mr Gordon said.
Mr Butler said the investment in the Nimmie-Caira area will provide benefits to what is the largest remaining area of wetland in the lower Murrumbidgee floodplain.
“The Nimmie-Caira project provides an opportunity to protect and restore the extensive wetland and floodway ecosystems of the lower Murrumbidgee floodplain that are of local, national and potentially international importance,” he said.
Ms Hodgkinson said the project also involves infrastructure works, reconfiguration of an extensive water delivery system and protection of important environmental assets for the long term, as well as funding for Indigenous and local community project components in the Hay, Balranald and Wakool council areas.