Water infrastructure has been essential to sustaining life ever since SA's regions were first settled.
It has allowed livestock production to expand across the state, into the lowest rainfall environments.
But, new water infrastructure doesn't come cheap, and is often needed most when cash flow has all but dried up.
The On-farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme has proven incredibly popular, with farmers jumping at the chance to improve their water security without taking such a hit to the hip pocket.
It's been so popular that its funding has been exhausted already, even though the federal government had planned for the program to run into 2021.
Despite its popularity, there are challenges associated with rebate schemes like these, where producers pay the project costs and later get reimbursed a certain percentage.
Even with the incentive of a rebate, coming up with the funds to pay for projects like these in the first place during times of drought can be difficult - especially for those who need such improvements the most.
Related reading:Calls flow to extend water rebate scheme
That the scheme appealed to so many farmers across the country has also created an even bigger challenge, with demand far exceeding the funding on offer.
Farmers without pre-approval who have spent money in good faith, while following the rebate rules precisely, face a nervous wait to see if the funding dries up before or after their application is approved, knowing they could end up footing the full bill.
Sure, the long-term drought preparedness benefits remain regardless of if a rebate applies or not, but those in areas still crippled by drought were likely counting on using reimbursed funds to pay the bills and keep feeding stock.
I know the federal government doesn't have a bottomless bucket of funding to continue the scheme forever - especially given the present state of the economy - but surely enough can be found to reimburse those who applied before applications were cut off, but who stand to miss out when the existing money runs out.
With water tipped to become an increasingly scarce resource in the future, programs like these that encourage farmers to prepare for future droughts are critically important. Hopefully the scheme can be extended or at least brought back when the treasury isn't going through a financial drought of its own.
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