Water policy is one of the most complicated and technical aspects of our policy portfolio. There are so many players and layers of rules and regulations which ultimately define access to water for productive purposes – particularly in the Murray Darling Basin.
Here at Australian Farmers, we're putting together a series of frequently asked questions on water policy. Today – we kick off with the who, what and how of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) is an independent statutory office established by the Water Act 2007. The CEWH is responsible for making decisions relating to Commonwealth environmental water, including the management of the Commonwealth water portfolio so that it maximises environmental outcomes across the Murray-Darling Basin over time.
The Commonwealth environmental water holdings are the water access entitlements that have been acquired by the Commonwealth as part of the Murray Darling Basin Reform process – including the water buybacks and joint investment in water efficiency projects.
As at 30 June 2016, the Commonwealth environmental water holdings total 2,432,301 megalitres of registered entitlements with a long term average annual yield of 1,691,747 megalitres.
The portfolio is diverse and includes most types of water entitlements in the Basin. You can see what water the CEWH holds in the catchments across the Basin here.
On acquisition, the CEWH’s water access entitlements retain the same characteristics and conditions. The entitlements are managed under the same State government rules that apply to other equivalent entitlement holders. The CEWH pays the same types of fees and charges as irrigators, they receive the same annual allocations as other like entitlements, and operate within the same rules, including the rules relating to carryover of water between years. The CEWH even orders water, just like other entitlement holders.
The CEWH releases information regarding their portfolio management on their website, including updates on current trading actions and information on potential future trade. Click here for more information. To maximise the benefits of environmental water, the portfolio is actively managed which means the water may be:
1. Delivered within the current year to meet environmental needs: Decisions to use water are made after assessment against a framework that focuses on the expected environmental outcomes. The trading framework has been developed to ensure trading activities:
2. Carried over to future years to meet future environmental needs: Decisions to carryover water for future use is based on current and future environmental needs and the carryover rules that exist for particular entitlements.
3. Traded The Water Act 2007 enables the CEWH to trade both entitlements (permanent trade) and allocations (temporary trade). The decision to trade needs to be directed to achieving an improved environmental outcome. There are strict rules about when the CEWH can decide to trade. The proceeds of permanent sales can only be used for future purchases, while funds from allocation sales can be used to purchase water elsewhere, or on other activities to improve environmental outcomes.