The ACCC has held its first water inquiry hearing in Mildura.

The national consumer watchdog heard that the Murray-Darling Basin water market is too complex and intricates for many water-users to understand.

The Mildura meeting is the first of 10 planned public forums as part of the ACCC’s inquiry, which is aimed at improving the transparency, competitiveness, and regulation of tradeable water rights.

One local described non-farming water investors - who buy and sell vital allocations like any other commodity - as “leeches and parasites”.

The inquiry was told that when investors have the ultimate freedom to buy and trade temporary water as a commodity, family farmers and larger businesses are placed at a major disadvantage.

The Victorian Farmers Federation Sunraysia branch put together a submission to the inquiry saying it “acknowledges the value of investors and the products they supply to irrigators”, claiming that “it might also be valid to apply the term ‘speculator’ to irrigators” who have “decided to rely” on temporary water.

The lobby suggested some larger-scale irrigators are “agitating to change the characteristics of water entitlement”, and “erode its value and therefore [irrigators'] own equity”.

ACCC Deputy Chairman Mick Keogh said the regulator is listening, and has even issued its first demands for information using its powers of compulsion.

The ACCC has reportedly demanded details about individual trades and deals, looking at brokers and exchanges as “an important source of information to understand the trading activities that's occurring”.

More details are available here.