The Minister for Water Resources, David Littleproud has reacted to a recent Four Corners program on ABC TV covering water resources in the Murray-Darling basin, declaring it “silly” and “comparing apples to oranges”.
Mr Littleproud said the Government allocated funds to water efficiency projects because they returned water to the river system whilst protecting rural jobs and communities rather than “decimating” them as water buybacks do.
“It is unfortunate Four Corners did not mention this,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Water buybacks mean less farm production, less harvesting and packing jobs in small towns, and less money spent in the local pubs and restaurants.”
He said water efficiency projects helped farmers grow more with less water through projects such as replacing leaking drains with modern pipes to save water.
“As a trade-off the farmer gives up some water entitlement which goes back to the river and is not available for purchase by irrigators again,” Mr Littleproud said.
“Taxpayer funded water efficiency projects help farmers grow more with less water, and return water to the river system.”
He said water entitlements were bought and sold on the open market and farmers were increasingly using them to grow the highest value crops, including almonds and other nuts as well as cotton.
“To suggest farmers are switching to high value crops because water is recovered through water efficiency projects is silly,” the Minister said.
“They are switching to high value crops because they return more to the farmer.
“Comparing the value of water at buyback to water recovered through job-saving water efficiency projects is comparing apples and oranges. Water efficiency upgrades cost more in the short term but save jobs in perpetuity.”
He said some 95 per cent of the On Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program projects were worth less than $1 million.
Mr Littleproud said his office was not contacted for the Four Corners story.