Saturday, July 20, 2024

Applications open for water infrastructure grants

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The Resilient Rivers Water Infrastructure Program is now taking proposals for new water-saving infrastructure.

Murray Darling Basin Plan (MDBP) state governments can bring forward projects like irrigation network upgrades to improve water efficiency and management, reduce water loss, and return water to the environment.

This is the first of three programs to be rolled out this year as part of the government’s Restoring our Rivers draft framework.

Environment and water minister Tanya Plibersek said the government was working quickly to implement the Restoring our Rivers Act.

“We’re determined to get this done. And now that the Restoring Our Rivers Act has commenced, we’re not wasting any time,”

“We’ve put more time, more funding, more options and more accountability on the table. We are starting straight away by giving participating governments the opportunity to bring forward new water-saving projects.

“The more of these projects we fund, the less water we will need to purchase.”

Restoring Our Rivers was passed in an effort to repair the MDBP, which is set to fall short of its target of an additional 450GL of water savings by 2024.

So far, the plan has saved about 2,000GL.

These infrastructure upgrades are an effort to limit the government’s need to purchase water directly from irrigation, something many farming communities think would be ruinous.

Last year, thousands of farmers rallied across Murray Darling Basin communities like Griffith and Deniliquin to express their anger.

NSW Irrigators Council CEO Claire Miller said basin communities, those who will be personally affected by changes in the plan haven’t been adequately consulted on the changes.

She is sceptical that the targets can be met without relying on buybacks.

“Basin communities have already been there with past buybacks, so they already know how this will end badly for their towns and people,” she said.

“It’s time for the senate to step up and do what the government seems incapable of doing – listening and supporting a pathway forward that delivers healthier rivers without gutting communities.”

“The people directly affected by these decisions must be given a voice and they must be heard.”

Among the Basin Plan changes to be rolled out this year is the Sustainable Communities Program. This would offer communities direct compensation for harms caused by water buybacks, or other efforts to recover water.

This will be granted based on need, to “minimise socio‑economic impacts of water purchase for the 450 GL”.

Consultation on the Restoring our Rivers draft framework is open until March 4, 2024.


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