Water worries for Wowan

Bore water allocation reductions a concern at Wowan

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Steven Raine, Idlewood, Wowan is one of many growers left high and dry by a government decision to cut groundwater allocations to the area. Photos: Tania Raine

Steven Raine, Idlewood, Wowan is one of many growers left high and dry by a government decision to cut groundwater allocations to the area. Photos: Tania Raine

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Cherry picking monitoring bores and lip service consultation are among the concerns farmers in the Wowan and Dululu region say they have been battling as they face ground water allocation reductions that could put some out of business.

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Cherry picking monitoring bores and lip service consultation are among the concerns farmers in the Wowan and Dululu region say they have been battling as they face ground water allocation reductions that could put some out of business.

Their concerns arose at the end of May when a reduction in bore water availability of 35 per cent in one section and 25pc in another section of the Don and Dee groundwater sub-area of the Callide Groundwater Management Area were announced by the Department of Water.

As well as advising of the proposed entitlements for the 2021-22 water year and giving users a fortnight, until June 14, to respond, the department's senior water officer asked the sub-area executive to communicate the changes to its members, as they were no longer able to advertise locally in print.

The group's treasurer, Steven Raine is one of those affected by the cut, which he says will make he and wife Tania's 135ha property unviable if they remain in place.

As it stands, the barley crop they planted earlier in the year on the understanding that they had a 100pc bore water allocation, potentially won't be able to be watered to finish it off.

If the couple choose to use the water to do that, they are unlikely to have water for summer crops.

"We can kiss summer goodbye," Mr Raine said.

"There's blokes out on the Don with good allocations, they've got to pay for that infrastructure.

"The biggest fellow has lost 250ML and he supports five families."

Steve Raine and his children Lily, Hugh and Lachlan Raine in a lucerne crop, are among those fearing for their future, thanks to cutbacks in bore water allocations.

Steve Raine and his children Lily, Hugh and Lachlan Raine in a lucerne crop, are among those fearing for their future, thanks to cutbacks in bore water allocations.

The growers don't believe cuts should be implemented when the total volume allocated to the area hasn't been used.

Mr Raine said that out of a 14,000ML system, only about 7500ML is being used by growers.

"Until we reach that number, we shouldn't even be looking at cuts," he said. "We've been told it's environmental but when 5000 or 6000MLs a year isn't getting used, surely that's enough back to the environment."

According to a Water Department spokesperson, announced entitlements, as specified in local water sharing rules developed in consultation with water users in the area, "serve to ensure there is continued long-term sustainable management and access to water for all users in the system, particularly when there are locally dry conditions, as there are at the moment".

"The 50 per cent aquifer volume trigger is standard methodology that has been successfully applied to all other groundwater sub-areas across the Callide Groundwater Management Area and other groundwater management areas around the state," the spokesperson said.

Mr Raine said some good rainfall years had pushed the benchmark up, and growers were disappointed that local knowledge had been ignored.

The committee was of the opinion that officials had cherry-picked monitoring bores that suited their aims, ignoring the main telemetry bore in section four and choosing an old manual bore instead.

While it believed the decision was made by officials new to the area who admitted they were not familiar with the recharge system, the departmental spokesperson said calculations and decisions were made by experienced departmental staff based in the region.

"Local monitoring bores indicate aquifer volume, which forms the basis for decision-making around announced entitlements," the statement read.

Highway dividing line

Also irking the producers, among them a dairy, citrus, watermelon and pumpkin growers, and people making hay, is that the Burnett Highway forms a dividing line between haves and have-nots.

"The difference between one bloke having 100pc and one bloke having 65pc is a road dividing them," Mr Raine said.

"They say we can seasonally transfer water in but you've got to find someone to transfer that, because they're going to have cuts too.

"The aquifer is the same."

According to the department's statement, the announced entitlements "do not impact on the ability to continue to trade throughout the water year, noting each application is assessed on its merits and in consideration of the announced entitlement of the resource and current use".

"A robust water market allows for businesses to remain viable through buying and selling water to its highest value use, as well as allowing the department to sustainably manage the resource."

As well as disagreeing with the benchmark set, what upsets the Don Dee and Alma sub-group as much as anything is what they say was a lack of communication and consultation.

"As an area, we're disappointed in how they communicated these cuts," Mr Raine said.

"Because we're registered with DNR for our meter readings, we just got a text message to say, allocations have been announced, please check Business Queensland website.

"I've got a neighbour over here who's 84 - he wouldn't get texts and he wouldn't be on the internet.

"There's a lot in the area that just never got notified. We would have expected something in the mail."

Mr Raine said some negotiation would have been welcome.

"We didn't accept their idea, they didn't accept ours - come and talk to us, show us why," he said.

It's understood that a meeting is now being planned to talk through concerns.

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