A NEW Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan has finally been approved - the first update in nearly a decade.
Released by Sustainability, Environment and Conservation Minister Ian Hunter last week, it converts area-based irrigation allocations to volumetric, provides for the issue of water licences for commercial forestry plantations and makes the water trading and transfer process simpler.
Many irrigators were pleased to receive certainty about their future entitlements after years of consultation.
But those facing cuts of 50 per cent or more over an eight-year period say it will have a huge adverse impact on their livelihoods.
SE NRM Board presiding member Frank Brennan understood that not all irrigators were pleased with the final plan, however he said there had been an exhaustive consultation period with reference groups across all industry sectors to ensure equitable allocations.
With a number of areas over-allocated and their resource at risk - especially near the SA-Victorian border - it was necessary to protect the water resource over the long term.
Of the 2500 water-taking licences in the Lower Limestone Coast Irrigation area, Mr Brennan stressed that only a small number would actually be affected by the approved cuts and highlighted that the new plan was about water allocation, rather than water use.
"Through a risk assessment process, eight of the 61 water management zones were identified as having their water resource at some level of risk because of water management practices. In those eight zones, there are 800 licenceholders and of those, 64 face cuts to their real water use based on their usage in the past three years," he said.
Mr Brennan said it was a 10-year plan, but there were provisions in year five to revise it based on the state of the underground resource at the time.
* Full report in Stock Journal, December 5 issue, 2013.