It’s all or nothing bet on Mary River barrage for farmers

FARMERS face the gamble of getting all or none of their irrigation allocation from the Mary River barrage during times of drought, because climate forecasts are not considered during allocation.

Pioneer's Rest grazier Lynn Klupfel and her husband did not plant their usual crops this year because of a lack of rain and the chance irrigation would be turned off.

She said they were told in July they would get the full 100% allocation, and has questioned why the allocations were not reviewed at the end of 2013 when rain totals were drastically below the average.

"Why weren't we put on percentages?" she asked.

"We go from 100% allocation, to nothing.

"None of us should ever start at 100%."

All medium-priority irrigators, including the Klupfels, were cut off on February 25 before the region was drought declared on March 7.

SunWater, the group who manage the irrigation allocations, told the Chronicle irrigation allocations were managed through a State Government plan set down in 2011.

The Mary River Basin Resource Operations Plan is managed by the Department of Natural Mines and Resources whose spokesperson said climatic outlook is not considered in calculating the announced irrigation allowances for the water year.

The irrigation allocations were reviewed monthly during the water year, the spokesperson said, but could only be increased and not decreased.

"Allocations would only be restricted under rare circumstances where drinking water supplies were threatened," the spokesperson said. "Water sharing rules in the Lower Mary scheme consider an amount of inflow likely for the year. Access for irrigation is primarily from natural river flows."



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