Discussing the draft Richmond water sharing plan are (from left) Jim Crawter, David Miller of the Office of Water and Ian Crawter.
Discussing the draft Richmond water sharing plan are (from left) Jim Crawter, David Miller of the Office of Water and Ian Crawter.

Striking a right balance on water

STRIKING a balance between water for the environment and water users is the top priority of a new draft water sharing plan for the Richmond district, currently on exhibition.

Yesterday, representatives fro- m the Office of Water met with about 80 irrigators in Kyogle to talk about the plan. “Water will be set aside for the environment and for consumption,” senior water planner David Miller said.

The 10-year plan, due to start in July next year, will establish a framework for the trading of water from 22 sources within the Richmond catchment.

Under the plan, licences will no longer be attached to the ownership of land and will be held in perpetuity. Irrigators will be able to sell their water licences downstream; but the buying of water upstream will be heavily restricted.

The pumping of water from alluvial aquifers will be also highly controlled, acknowledging their close connection to surface water. Licence-holders will be also able to swap the right to pump one litre of water during low-flow periods for three litres of water during high-flow periods.

The plan also leaves open the possibility of setting aside environmental flows for the endangered eastern freshwater cod, if research shows it will be beneficial to cod in the catchment system and if the impact is deemed acceptable to irrigators.

 Irrigators expressed concerns about the draft plan consultation process, through which all concerns must be expressed with written submissions.

Irrigators said they had a long list of questions which needed to be answered before they could form an opinion about the plan, and the current process did not allow for this. However, Mr Miller said the Office of Water would do whatever was necessary to assist irrigators to understand what was being proposed in the plan.

Mr Miller acknowledged local communities had a better understanding of the Richmond’s waterways. “We don’t pretend we know all the answers,” he said. A copy of the draft plan can be downloaded at the Office of Water, and is on exhibition until January 15 next year.

A second meeting will be held at the Lismore Workers Club today at 10am.


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