Water (Rural and Agricultural)

Principles

1. Rural and agricultural water management must recognise that the South East of Australia is a dry environment and is likely to become drier as a result of climate change. Securing both the natural environment and the supply of food has become an urgent task that requires the public interest to be protected.

2. Fresh water must be valued as an essential source of life and managed in an ecologically sustainable and socially just manner.

3. Native Title must be respected in all current and future water determinations.

4. Rural and agricultural water supply systems are interrelated parts of natural water catchments and must be sustainably managed within these catchments.

5. Water catchments are to be managed for the long term sustainable support of communities and ecosystems. Catchments must not be exploited for short-term profit.

6. Water catchments must be managed sustainably within their own confines and transfers between catchments must be eliminated over time Unsustainable water uses should be reformed or phased out.

7. We support whole of Murray Darling basin planning and management.

8. Water, and the infrastructure that delivers and disposes of it, must remain a public resource under public ownership and control.

9. All decision making relating to water management must be coupled with full community participation and public accountability.

10. The pricing of water use must take into account the full social, environmental and economic costs at each stage of the water cycle.

11. A total water cycle management approach means that the allocation and use of water must be a fundamental determinant and ecological constraint on how land is used.

12. Rural and agricultural water allocation must balance the conflict between the needs of extractive users and the environment with protection of the resource taking priority over extraction rights.

13. Aquatic areas should be assessed and protected in a manner similar to the land based National Parks system.

14. Flood control should mimic naturally occurring ecosystems and engineering solutions should only be sought as a last resort.

15. Sufficient water flows and ground water supplies should be provided to maintain the viability of natural wetlands in keeping with climatic and seasonal variability.

Detail

The Greens NSW will work towards:

16. Underpinning all rural water exchanges, including water licenses, consumer use, government funding, license buy-backs and dividend policies, with the three principles of polluter pays, user-pays and catchment benefits;

17. Ensuring that water efficiency, water re-use and recycling must be practised for all water that is extracted from river and groundwater systems;

18. Co-ordination and co-operation between all governments and state and local authorities with responsibilities for the Murray-Darling system;

19. Ensuring water authorities develop a true-cost, user and polluter pays pricing system that takes into account:

19.1 The environmental and ecological cost of water extraction and discharge

19.2 The financial and quality of life costs imposed on current and future generations

19.3 The full cost of water resources including marginal infrastructure costs

19.4 The need for transparency and the recognition that agricultural water usage at present is heavily subsidised

19.5 The benefits of a greater use of pricing and allocation incentives to promote efficiency of water use

19.6 The positive impacts of fiscal incentives to control livestock access to water and to encourage native vegetation retention

19.7 The imperative to the environment, financial gains that are attributable to public expenditure and

19.8 The financial benefits that are contributed by existing natural systems such as ecosystem services;

20. Protecting native eco-systems and indigenous aquatic flora and fauna by:

20.1 Preventing the construction of new dams or the augmentation of existing dams that unnecessarily compromise the natural environment.

20.2 Ensuring viable environmental water flows that mimic natural variability;

20.3 Prohibiting any increase in inter-catchment water transfers; and

20.4 Over time eliminating existing transfers.

River Issues

The NSW Greens recognise the severe environmental stresses that NSW river systems and catchments are facing, and will work toward, as interim initiatives:

21. Requiring effective action by the Department of Environment and Conservation and other NSW government agencies to ensure that diffuse-source pollution of river systems is significantly reduced;

22. Requiring water authorities to treat waste water to the highest standard possible in order to reduce foreign nutrients flowing into creeks and river systems;

23. Recognising and protecting statutory rights to water for in-stream needs as a way of protecting the ecological values of waterways;

24. Requiring state and local government bodies and all other land users to individually reduce both their point and diffuse source pollution contributions through a combination of regulation, economic incentives and disincentives and public education;

25. Ending the desnagging of rivers and streams;

26. Ending unsustainable rural water practices; and

27. Ending the release of all non-native species into water systems.

Floods

The Greens NSW will work for flood management based on the following principles:

28. Effective flood mitigation strategies are often those that mimic naturally occurring ecosystems;

29. Flood mitigation may require returning the tide and allowing areas that were once underwater to be re-inundated with appropriate compensation for landholders;

30. Redundant weirs and floodgates should be removed;

31. All remaining floodgates must be actively maintained and conscientiously managed to sustain the aquatic environment;

32. Flood mitigation facilities must wherever possible, mimic natural ecosystems in order to provide environmental and recreational amenities to the community and to support native wildlife and vegetation;

33. Flood damage is best minimized by ensuring that future rural development takes account of natural and regulated water flows rather than relying on post-development flood mitigation methods;

34. Flood management must not involve the removal of native riparian vegetation or stream straightening.

Water for the Environment

Biological diversity and ecological integrity of hydrological systems must be maintained by ensuring natural flows and mimicking natural variability. The Greens will work for:

35. Significantly increased allocation of surface water extractions for environmental purposes in rivers;

36. Increasing the frequency and duration of flooding of floodplain wetlands by 25% to 50%;

37. Protection of coastal estuarine processes and their maintenance with adequate flows;

38. Eliminating access to flows below the 80th percentile (i.e. the quantity of water that is present within a water course or system 80% of the time); and

39. The discouragement of agricultural practices that require water at times of low flow.

Aquatic protection zones

The Greens NSW will work towards:

40. Legislation similar to that currently in place for land systems to protect aquatic systems, including reserve system similar to national parks for streams, rivers, lakes and wetlands; and

41. Setting up a system of freshwater reserves across the State's stressed rivers to help rescue dwindling native fish stocks.

Salinity

The Greens NSW note that salinity is widespread and is increasing in NSW. It results in lost agricultural production, infrastructure damage and environmental harm. It is largely caused by land clearing. The Greens NSW will work towards:

42. Protecting existing native vegetation as an insurance policy against even greater salinity damage and repair bills; and

43. The implementation of an environmental levy to counter the cost borne by the public of environmental damage associated with resource misuse.

Groundwater

The long-term viability of groundwater recharge beds is threatened by inappropriate land use and over exploitative irrigation practices. The over-exploitation of groundwater sources will also diminish the extent to which groundwater can sustain groundwater-dependant ecosystems. For these reasons groundwater extraction should never exceed recharge rates. The Greens NSW will work to ensure that:

44. Pollution of groundwater from sources such as landfill, fuel storage tanks, and mining related activities is prevented, given that rehabilitation of groundwater quality is practically impossible;

45. Capping and piping of bore water from artesian, sub-artesian and shallow aquifers is a priority and should continue to be implemented as a priority for strategic pastoral land;

46. No new bores are constructed, and all bores in existence are mapped, metered and licensed;

47. Groundwater is not used for unsustainable irrigation;

48. Where the quantity of the water resource has been substantially diminished, use of the aquifer is controlled to enable recovery; and

49. Any water to be used in aquifer storage or recharge is of a quality equal to or greater than existing groundwater supplies.

Wetlands

The Greens NSW will work to ensure:

50. Sufficient water flows and ground water supplies are provided to maintain the viability of natural wetlands in keeping with climatic and seasonal variability;

51. All NSW wetlands, through legislation, are mapped protected; and

52. The construction of additional artificial wetlands is encouraged provided that there is a policy of strict protection of natural wetlands.

Mining and Other Extractive Industries

Mining the other extractive industries damage our waterways and threaten water supplies in rural areas. The Greens NSW will work to:

53. Strongly oppose the present levels of extractive industries such as peat, gravel, sand etc, near or in NSW aquatic systems as they are inconsistent with the objectives of ecologically sustainable development;

54. Advocate that the dredging of any aquatic ecosystem for gold or other minerals should not be permitted as it releases heavy metals and other hazardous leachates;

55. Ensure that mining operations which will damage river systems and minor creeks are not approved, and the precautionary principle is incorporated into the Mining Act, as promised by previous governments;

56. Ensure pollution that is caused by cracking of rivers and creeks by mining operations is prevented by prescribing and enforcing adequate safety zones around river systems; and

57. Ensure mines are stopped from discharging saline and acid water into waterways.

Damming rivers

The Greens NSW will work towards:

58. Banning any further inter-valley transfers of water or construction of new dams or augmentation of existing dams;

59. Ensuring that existing dams are managed in such a way that sustains/restores all riverine ecosystems from the dam wall to the river mouth;

60. Ensuring that extractive water users are not the sole beneficiaries of public dams and related water infrastructure.

61. Subjecting any works that impede or divert river flows or floodwaters on floodplains or speed the movement of river or flood water to an environmental impact assessment;

62. Reducing the number of existing weirs and locks to the essential minimum;

63. Equipping all weirs on rives and tributaries downstream of major dams and waterfalls with fishways suited to all migratory fish of all age classes native to that river. Where this is not possible, weirs should be drowned sufficiently often to allow fish passage and migration;

64. Fitting multi level off-takes to large storage dams so that the quality and temperatures of releases are as close to natural as possible; and

65. Managing, as much as possible, structures that are unable to be removed so as to mimic the variability of natural flows particularly flood and drought regimes.

Water conservation and demand management

The Greens NSW will work towards:

66. Encouraging low net water usage industrial processes;

67. Ending the use of inefficient irrigation practices and promoting efficient measures such as drip irrigation;

68. Fostering the development of low water-demand agricultural crops to replace higher demand crops; and

69. Promoting research into planting and watering techniques that minimise water consumption.

Private water extraction

With the exception of agricultural dams or other artificial rainwater collection systems, The Greens NSW:

70. Oppose the privatisation of water ownership in both metropolitan and rural NSW and will be vigilant in ensuring that existing State Government corporations do not degenerate towards privatisation;

71. Insist that the granting and retention of licences be coupled with responsibilities of the license holder, including:

71.1 A compliance monitoring system being in place to ensure that water extraction limits are adhered to

71.2 Annual reporting on the amount of water extracted by each license holder

71.3 The adoption of a bio-regionalist approach in the allocation of water with specific objections to the transference of irrigation licenses between unconnected catchments, including an Environmental Impact Statement as part of all transfer applications;

72. Recognise the benefits of incentives to promote sustainable practices, which may take the form of:

72.1 Offering financial incentives to agricultural producers who follow farming practices and products which are more in keeping with the natural rainfall patterns and with minimal irrigation

72.2 Government- provided tax incentives to fence and/or revegetate areas beside streams to create a nutrient buffer strip. Such a program should be properly implemented and audited and

72.3 Structural adjustment to irrigators to become more efficient or to move out of the industry.