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The Business of Saving Water - the Report of the Murrumbidgee Valley Water Efficiency Project

  • Year: 2004
  • Author: Pratt Water
  • Publisher: Pratt Water Pty Ltd
  • Published Location: Campbellfield, Victoria
  • ISBN: 0975725602
  • Country: Australia
  • State/Region: New South Wales

The Murrumbidgee Valley Water Efficiency Feasibility Project examines the business case for saving significant amounts of water, and to identify ways of boosting regional productivity and environmental quality with the savings.

This report is the record of these investigations and the findings.

The project - the first of its kind in Australia - was initiated in 2003, following sustained community concern at Australia's water resources crisis, and in response to a call for business and investment solutions to the national water efficiency challenge.

The project is purposely private-sector focused rather than adopting a government or regulatory focus. By examining the business case for alternative investment options to improve water use efficiency, create water savings, and utilise those savings for human and environmental use, it aims to provide an action plan for business, community and governments alike.

The work is based in the Murrumbidgee Valley of New South Wales, but the intention is that lessons learnt here will be applicable to other parts of Australia and beyond.

Funding for the project was provided by Pratt Water, the Australian Government and the NSW Government, with the government parties providing funds under the auspices of the National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality (NAP).

The Murrumbidgee River rises south of Canberra and runs westerly for some 1,700 km before entering the Murray River near Balranald. The Murrumbidgee Valley catchment is 84,000 km2 and the River conveys some 4,300,000 ML (4,300 GL) of water annually, of which about 65 per cent is licensed for diversion for irrigation and other human uses.

The communities of the Murrumbidgee Valley have established successful and valuable enterprises based on the innovative use of water in agriculture, horticulture and value adding businesses. People's innovation and continuous improvement have enabled this Valley to contribute to the nation's wealth.

However the Valley's water users face many challenges. These include problems with ageing water supply and distribution infrastructure, limits on current water allocations now, future uncertainty regarding climate, river flows in this Valley and others, the need to ensure sustainability of farms and of the Valley's environmental assets, and growing competitiveness from globalised markets for the region's products.

This project has a multi-disciplinary and integrated approach. That is, every relevant form of expertise has been sought to be harnessed and ideas captured. These have been brought together to fashion a cohesive, whole-of-valley solution to the water sustainability challenge.

Some of the questions that have driven the project's investigations, are:

What is the scale of the Valley's water losses and water saving opportunities?

How can those losses be captured or minimised?

What investments can be made to save water?

How can saved water be harnessed to provide sustainable regional benefits - both human and environmental?

How can the cost of water-efficiency infrastructure be reduced?

How can water-saving infrastructure projects be privately financed?

What reforms can governments adopt to boost investment in water-efficiency and make it a priority on the nation's action agenda.

The principal findings of the project are set out in this report, The Business of Saving Water. The further detailed technical analyses and evaluations that formed the basis of the findings are contained in the report appendixes and the many working papers from which the findings were drawn.

In summary, the highlights of The Business of Saving Water in the Murrumbidgee Valley are:

1,334,000 megalitres per year of unaccounted water flows, water losses and water identified for saving in the River Valley system;

$824m worth of new investments identified to save water in the Valley;

At least an additional $293m per year of farm-gate production income identified within the Valley;

Some $421m of new capital investment opportunities can be realised within the Murrumbidgee Valley's production enterprises, and

Identified water saving investments and new water-efficient production in the Valley can provide 4,500 new job opportunities and boost regional income by up to $245m.

These benefits are not limited to conventional irrigation and agriculture, but extend throughout the Valley. For example, the flow-on investments from timber plantations in the upper catchment could exceed $600m in capital and generate $25m per year in regional income, with an additional 740 jobs.

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