THE Federal Government is calling on their State counterparts to proceed with plans to find an extra 450 gigalitres of water to preserve the health of the Murray-Darling Basin.
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, David Littleproud confirmed the government's stance on the issue and its support of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan following Friday's release into the efficiency measures.
The 300-plus page Ernst and Young report, commissioned by the Murray-Darling Basin Ministerial Council last year, drew on other studies on the social and economic impacts of water efficiency measures, including the effects of off- and on-farm water infrastructure investment and water recovery programs.
"The study clearly acknowledges governments need to work with communities, irrigators and industry sectors to ensure that efficiency measures have neutral or positive social and economic outcomes; this is critical to better understanding the impacts of water efficiency measures," Mr Littleproud said.
"All Basin governments agreed to the plan, and I believe this report provides us with a pathway to delivering it. It identifies a range of off-farm and urban water efficiency measures which can safely deliver some water savings without negative social or economic impacts."
The report found that extra 450 gigalitres can likely be recovered from water efficiency projects on a neutral or positive socio-economic basis.
The study also argues that off-farm and urban projects generally generate positive socio-economic impacts, whilst infrastructure upgrades result in enhanced water efficiency and on-farm productivity for participants.
"I've sat around farmers' kitchen tables and seen the strain in their eyes caused by uncertainty. The tiredness caused by working long hours and not knowing what's around the corner. What farmers, rural businesses and communities need most is certainty and to see that we are nearing the light at the end of the tunnel," Mr Littleproud said
The report also acknowledges that more work needs to be done to better understand and monitor the impacts of water efficiency measures.
"The study gives us a reference point for a frank, respectful and constructive discussion on efficiency measures and to get cracking on savings which can be made now without social or economic impacts," Mr Littleproud said.
"We have all agreed to the Basin Plan. It is important we all act maturely and treat those communities most directly affected in the Basin Plan with the respect they deserve, the respect of certainty.
"I am keen to work with Basin states to begin implementing many of these efficiency measures within the next few months. We can lay out the pathway to do this when the Ministerial Council meets in April this year."