For years, Tongala irrigator Peter Hacon has seen Goulburn Valley irrigators give up water for the environment but he believes the time has come to slow down the transfer of water from agriculture to the environment.
‘‘We are in danger of hitting a tipping point,’’ he said.
‘‘We can’t afford to have any more water leave the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District under any circumstances.’’
The wool and fat lamb producer farms on about 500ha between the Murray Valley Hwy and the Goulburn River.
Chair of the Central Goulburn Water Services Committee for Goulburn-Murray Water, and a farmer who appreciates the land’s rich heritage and the fact that he is a custodian of the land, Mr Hacon is acutely aware of the environmental needs.
But having seen the amount of water moving out of agriculture he is convinced that trying to meet the proposed extra 450Gl of up-water will have a crushing effect on the industry.
Agriculture has already done a lot of the heavy lifting with the Connections project.
Connections is expected to create about 450Gl of savings for the environment, but it will also mean there is less water for agriculture as the area served by the northern Victorian channel system is reduced.
The new, more efficient, automated channel system will also reduce the water available from outfalls into drainage systems, which some irrigators relied on to irrigate.
And the new meters being installed are likely to reduce the water which can be used for productive agriculture.
Mr Hacon said the outfall water, although not guaranteed, was a historical supply and he can point to farmers who set up irrigation systems to take advantage of the water.
The Goulburn region is also losing water which is being transferred out to other agricultural developments downstream, with inherent transmission losses.
‘‘Now, the argument is that water goes to where it achieves its highest value,’’ Mr Hacon said.
‘‘The downstream developments can afford to pay, so that’s where the water goes.
‘‘How would we go as a community if we applied that principle to gas or power prices?
‘‘Overseas companies want our gas and they can pay more for it, so we will export it and domestic consumers go without?
‘‘I don’t think so. The Federal Government has put a stop to it.’’
He would like to see some control over the amount of water being transferred out of the GMID districts, similar to what happens in other states.