Between 500 and 800 billion litres of water could be saved by more efficient management of the Murray Darling Basin’s rivers and environmental water, according to the Victorian Farmers Federation, but the savings have not been facted into the MDBA's plan.

“It’s a fundamental flaw in the plan,” VFF President Andrew Broad said.

He said the VFF did not support the draft basin plan in its current form as most of the burden of diverting 2750 billion litres of irrigators’ water to the environment would fall on Victorian and Riverina communities.

“We’re calling on the Authority to enshrine more efficient use of environmental water and river operations in the final basin plan.”

“We’re sick of the argument being framed as a battle between irrigators and the environment,” Mr Broad said.

“Farmers are practical environmentalists and they care about the river. A good plan can be achieved if we put in the infrastructure to support it.

“The draft plan fails to include infrastructure and that’s why we’re so disappointed. In its current form, it will simply strip water to appease city votes.

“Just like farmers have improved their infrastructure by putting things like tape and drip irrigation on their farms, so too can the environment. The current plan has failed to recognise that.

“Let’s create the framework so we can spend the money on infrastructure, restore the environment and keep our regional communities viable,” Mr Broad said.

MDBA Chairman Craig Knowles has said these environmental works would be considered as part of a review of the basin plan in 2015.

“But that’s not good enough. We want these works enshrined in the plan, to be released later this year,” Mr Broad said.

“We’re not going to accept a ‘pat on the head’ and be expected to trust Craig Knowles, this government or whoever is running the country in 2015.

“The fact is, once the plan is enshrined in law it will be very difficult to change.”

The VFF has finalised its submission on the draft basin plan, which has been lodged with the MDBA.

Initial analysis shows between 500 – 800 billion litres of efficiencies can be delivered by:

  • Improved river management that times transfers of water to benefit irrigators and the environment. For example - timing transfers of water from Lake Hume to Lake Victoria to coincide with environmental needs.
  • Cutting the volume needed to water wetlands, via pumps, embankments and small weirs. For example, a series of 9 regulators across the Lindsay Island wetland could cut the volume needed from 1200 billion litres to flood 8000ha down to just 90 billion litres to flood 5000ha (This is not a 1100 billion litre saving, as it must be translated to an annual average saving). Other projects include boosting environmental watering efficiencies at Hattah Lakes, the Gunbower Forest, Wallpolla Island and river redgum sites along the Murray.
  • Modifying management of the barrages at the Murray Mouth-Lower Lakes.

The VFF’s submission calls for amendments to the plan that would:

  • Exclude the Federal Government from buying any more water to meet the downstream needs (971 billion litres) of the southern basin. All water needed for downstream needs (to water the Murray River’s wetlands, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth) must come from water saving investments in irrigation networks and on farm as well as environmental works and more efficient river operations. Victoria is on track to meet its in-valley requirements under the draft basin plan of 627 billion litres.
  • Amend the plan to expand the definition of environmental water from water entitlement, which must be listed on a water register, to include efficiency and river operations savings as environmental offsets.
  • Ensure the Federal Government is liable for any shortfall in bridging the gap between the current and the new sustainable diversion limits in 2019