Rules Change for Murrumbidgee-Murray and Why

By | 05/03/2017

Dethridge Wheel in Finley
Dethridge wheel in Finley, NSW. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Finley_Wheels_of_Prosperity_104.JPG

Due to feedback, WaterNSW has slightly changed the application process for transfers between the Murray and Murrumbidgee valleys. Firstly, for background: the Murrumbidgee IVT Account Status is updated daily at 9 am. This page tells you whether you can trade from the Murrumbidgee to Murray or Murray to Murrumbidgee.

In the past, as soon as this was updated, applications for trading were accepted. If Murrumbidgee to Murray opened on a particular day at 9 am, applications to trade Murrumbidgee to Murray were accepted from 9 am. If trade was closed for the day, all applications were automatically rejected (and still are.)

New Rule

The rule change is that applications will only be accepted from 10 am on the day trade opens. You can read the update from WaterNSW here. The website will still be updated at 9 am, but applications submitted from 9 am to 10 am are automatically rejected.

Why?

The rule change is in response to community feedback on a few related issues. Trade out of the Murrumbidgee valley closes too quickly. This is due to other water brokers transferring water from Murrumbidgee Water Access Licences (WALs) to NSW Murray WALs.

They do this because temporary water is worth more in the Murray valley than Murrumbidgee (at the moment.) It’s difficult to find a buyer of 15 GL in the few hours or just minutes that trade is open, so brokers ask Murrumbidgee sellers to transfer the water onto the brokers’ own NSW Murray WAL. Later, after trade out of the valley is closed, they can sell the water in the Murray valley. I’ve written about this in detail in the article, Murrumbidgee Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

Even though this has occurred numerous times over the years, it has only gained attention in the past week. The Fairfax press ran an article (which has since been taken down from most of their websites) on this issue and this probably stirred stakeholders to complain to WaterNSW. I know the Weekly Times has since run articles on this issue as well.

Another Solution

In my opinion, it’s still going to close quickly. One hour is not enough. Many farmers are in the paddock at that time of day or doing something else apart from sitting in front of the computer. What this will do is enable more brokers to submit trades, but it won’t put much of a dampener on the “water parking” explained in the Murrumbidgee Self-Fulfilling Prophecy.

Another idea I have is to have the application process open for a few days. Rather than process the applications on a first in first out basis, collect many applications and have a lottery. Have the accepting applications period open for say one week and then have a lottery as to which ones get processed. This will enable genuine trades to Murray valley irrigators to get the foot in the door.

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