Report identifies billions in wasted river funding

The Federal Government is squandering billions of dollars in water recovery subsidies, a new report released by the Australian National University (ANU) has found.

The ANU report paints a grim picture of government misallocation of funding, finding that the $3.5 billion subsidised on- and off-farm water infrastructure program has delivered 70 gigalitres/year increases to flow, some 670 gigalitres short of the government’s 700 gigalitres/year target.

Professor John Williams, one of the researchers, said 630 GL is more water than is in Sydney Harbour.

"Simply put, without independent and comprehensive water accounting, including what is happening to return flows and the effects of multi-billion dollar subsidies for irrigation infrastructure on stream flows, expect more fish kills, a continuing environmental crisis, and no peace in the Murray-Darling Basin," said Professor Williams.

Co-researcher Professor Quentin Grafton said their analysis showed the average cost of water recovery for infrastructure subsidies could be as much as $50 million per GL returned to the Murray-Darling Basin every year.

"We calculate that the actual average cost of increasing stream and river flows from subsidies to increase irrigation efficiency infrastructure in the Murray-Darling Basin could be 10 times more expensive than what is estimated by the Australian Government and 25 times more expensive per litre of water recovered than buying back water entitlements from willing sellers," Professor Grafton said.

"There is too much uncertainty about the actual effect on return flows from increases in irrigation efficiency in the Murray-Darling Basin," Professor Grafton said.

The full study can be found here

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