Water sharing plans - Not just about economics


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Water sharing plans: not just about economics

This article was written by by G. Kuehne, CRC for Irrigation Futures, University of SA and H. Bjornlund, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada. It was published in Irrigation Australia Journal in May 2007.


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Water sharing plans - Not just about economics

  1. 1. FEATURE Water sharing plans: not just about economics by G. Kuehne, CRC for Irrigation Futures, University of SA and H. Bjornlund, University of Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada W ater is not just an economic good; people value it in different ways reflecting non-economic values and its social dimensions. the fundamental importance of public consultation – ostensibly to help implement reforms by improving the public’s awareness and understanding of the need for them. reduction and continuing deferrals of implementation dates contributed to their uncertainty. License holder discontent was also attributed to a mistaken belief that they Much information to do with were to be involved with the formulation economics, psychology, social and The Namoi Valley – non economic of the WSPs rather than just providing health psychology, social and community values in action an opinion. If there was no intention to and farm decision making disciplines The implementation of the Namoi Valley involve stakeh olders in making actual supports this statement. It also suggests Ground Water Sharing Plans (WSPs) is decisions they should have been made that farmers’ management responses an example of where the consultation more explicitly aware of this. It seems to any new policy will not be based process could have been implemented that this, combined with the failure to on profit maximising goals alone but differently for a more harmonious consult appropriately, has contributed will also depend on the influence of outcome, and where water markets further damage to an already strained their values, attitudes and objectives. might not achieve the expected result relationship between license holders and However, policies introduced to achieve because of the non-economic values the government. certain outcomes do not normally reflect influencing water users’ decision making Originally, the department (then these non tangible elements. Instead, The process for developing the WSPs called the Department of Land and they generally assume that water users involved a long period of consultation. Water Conservation) indicated that HOE behave in a uniform and economically To achieve sustainability, reductions in would be applied. This was changed, rational way and, as a result, often have extractions had to be made, but license however, to ATB for equity reasons. It unintended and sometimes undesirable holders disagreed as to whether it was argued that license holders with outcomes. should be “history of extraction” (HOE) unused or underused licenses would Among other changes, the 1994 CoAG or “across-the-board” (ATB). Despite suffer losses in the form of property reforms encouraged the adoption of this, they all strongly perceived that value and development potential. It was water markets – allowing water to be the process of developing the WSPs further argued that, if ATB was applied, traded from low value to high value was unfair, confusing and frustrating. the active irrigators could buy water agriculture. They also acknowledged Changing methods of entitlement from the inactive license holders. In this CRCIF farewells founding member the CRC IF. Wayne has left to take up Performance. Wayne has also been a key The Cooperative Research Centre for the inaugural chair of Natural Resources proponent of the innovative Regional Irrigation Futures (CRC IF) recently Science at the University of Adelaide. Irrigation Business Partnership model. farewelled Chief Scientist and founding An internationally renowned Wayne was responsible for a member, Dr Wayne Meyer, who tended irrigation researcher, Wayne played number of major CRC IF publications, his resignation from CSIRO and thus an indispensable role in the timely including an eye-opening report establishment of the CRCIF, the first on The Irrigation Industry in the national grouping of irrigation and Murray and Murrumbidgee Basins water management researchers in (2005) and A Review of Methods to Australia. Estimate Irrigated Reference Crop Wayne can be justly proud of making Evapotranspiration across Australia a huge contribution to this national (2005). Copies of these reports collaborative research capacity. are available for downloading at Highlights of Wayne’s contribution www.irrigationfutures.org.au under to the CRC include guiding the ‘Publications’. development of The CRC’s two Everyone in the CRCIF extends their strong research programs, System very best wishes to Wayne as he takes Harmonisation through Regional on a new challenge and thank him for Irrigation Business Partnerships and his significant contribution over the last Irrigation Toolkits to Improve Enterprise three and half years. IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA36
  2. 2. FEATUREway they would be able to maintain their they are also influenced by different We suggest that the social side of waterproduction and compensate the sellers values, attitudes and goals towards non- resource management is importantfor lost property value and development economic dimensions such as family, and should not be an afterthought.potential. land, water, community and lifestyle. When implementing new policies It is therefore uncertain whether the with sensitive stakeholder groups,Don’t assume people behave in an expected reallocation would take place stakeholders should be clearly informedeconomically rational way under ATB. of the role that they are to play to helpThis expectation was, however, based The alternative method, HOE, leaves stop any misunderstanding about theiron the assumption that license holders more of the water with those who responsibilities.would behave in an economically rational are already using it, and does not rely In addition policy instruments that aremanner, with inactive irrigators selling nearly as much on a market process designed and implemented with a moretheir water to maximise their profit. The for redistribution. Consequently, it accurate understanding of landholderproblem with this assumption is that disrupts the production of existing active values and attitudes, and acknowledgeour research indicates that the potential irrigators, and the economic life of the the different motives and influencessellers are not just motivated by the affected communities, less. Despite their of farmers rather than just makingpossibility of making a profit on the sale concerns for equity and fairness, the an assumption of profit maximisingof their water. Apart from a variety of department eventually reverted to the behaviour, are more likely to achievefarm and production characteristics, use of HOE as their preferred option. policy aims.Irrigation ResearchHow much water DO forest plantations use?T he effect of forest plantations on water availability has been the subject of much debate in the lastfew years. Now, research is underwayto try and get a better handle on this improving models to predict plantation water use, including seasonal variations. With these model, plantation managers will be able to explore the relationship between water use and plantation almost doubled the total plantation area in the region, prompting questions about the effect of this land use change on water resources. Dr Benyon is working towardstricky issue as well as quantify economic growth to make informed decisions developing a method to evaluate thisbenefits derived from water. In essence, about future land use and to improve impact on a regional scale. His currentthe research aims to quantify and predict efficiency, ensuring catchment water research will determine how accuratelythe impacts of plantation water use to balances are not adversely affected. modelling can be used to estimate waterimprove efficiency. For the past two years, ENSIS principal use across the region, and to predict The research is being funded by the research scientist, Dr Richard Benyon, growth and production per unit of water.Forest and Wood Products Research and has been working in the Green Triangle In other related research, scientists areDevelopment Corporation (FWPRDC), – an area that stretches from Victoria’s trying to better understand plantationthe Glenelg Hopkins Cavtchment Port Campbell north to Dimboola and water use and its interaction withManagement Authority and ENSIS. west to SA’s Naracoorte – to measure plantation growth, and plan to apply While water management has always water use at representative plantation the results at the larger catchment scale.been an important issue for the forestry sites and test and improve models to catchment-scale modelling will includeindustry, the drought has added pressure quantify plantation water use. Although the water balance of other land uses.on it to conserve and maintain water this area has accommodated a radiata * ENSIS is a joint venture between theresources. pine industry for many years, in the past CSIRO and New Zealand’s Scion. The focus of the research will be on decade new blue gum plantations have IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA 37