21 December 2022

Snowy Monaro irrigators accused of breaching water licences to be taken to court

| Claire Fenwicke
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Murrumbidgee River

The Murrumbidgee River at the Billilingra gauge in early 2019. Photo: NRAR.

Legal action has begun against some Snowy Monaro irrigators, accused of breaching the conditions of their water licence 16 times in the span of 34 days.

The Natural Resources Access Regulator (NRAR) has alleged the irrigators took more than 107 megalitres from the Murrumbidgee River near Bredbo between 20 November and 23 December, 2019, during a period of “intense drought”.

“NRAR will allege the irrigators pumped water on 16 occasions when daily flows in the Murrumbidgee River at the Billilingra gauge near Bredbo were significantly less than 27 ML,” a statement said.

“This breached the conditions of their water licence which stipulates they can’t pump when the river is that low.”

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The NRAR started its investigation as a result of a public tip-off, and will take the irrigators to the NSW Land and Environment Court on 3 February, 2023.

NRAR Investigation and Enforcement director Lisa Stockley said the allegations highlighted the importance of water users knowing and following the conditions of their water licence.

“The Billilingra river gauge is one of many across the state which continuously monitors water flow in rivers and streams,” she said.

“The data can be used by water licence holders to determine when they can pump. If river levels fall below a certain level, pumping must stop.”

Ms Stockley said it was “particularly concerning” the offences allegedly occurred when the entire region was struggling with dry conditions, and such actions could impact the community, environment and other water users.

“Clearly, there’s much more water around now, and even too much in some areas, but water users must still know and follow the rules that apply to them, the rules are always important,” Ms Stockley said.

“Even when there is lots of water, it needs to be shared and accurately measured.”

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WaterNSW provided real-time data on flows and water available on WaterInsights.

Licence holders can learn more about the conditions they need to abide by via the NSW Water Register.

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