Water users urged to have their say about irrigation prices
WATER users along the Barker Barambah scheme are urged to share their thoughts about rural irrigation prices.
A draft of the Queensland Competition Authority's rural irrigation price review was released for stakeholder feedback this week.
This comes after drought conditions forced the water allocation for Barker Barambah medium-priority users, irrigators and farmers, to be dropped to 0 per cent on July 1, 2019.
The Barker Barambah scheme draft report, which was provided to both the Treasurer and the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, has been published after a collaborative process involving more than 100 submissions and 15 workshops across the state.
Several stakeholder submissions relevant to the Barker Barambah scheme were received, and a workshop in February allowed the QCA to address queries regarding tariff structure, operating costs, the renewals annuity and other matters relevant to the Barker Barambah water supply scheme.
The QCA now invites water users from the Barker Barambah region to provide additional feedback as part of its ongoing consultation before the anticipated release of the final report in February 2020.
The review, the first of its kind since 2013, covers irrigation prices for water supply schemes operated by Sunwater and Seqwater from July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2024.
QCA will then make a range of recommendations to the Queensland Government.
These may include pricing alternatives which include reducing the fixed charge and increasing the volumetric charge and a drought relief mechanism.
QCA chairman Professor Flavio Menezes said the draft report proposed "cost-reflective” adjustments to existing tariffs, which meant that while some water supply schemes faced potential small price changes, others faced increases.
"It's important to remember that a pricing review has not been done for seven years and this is the first time the government has instructed us to consider apportioning the costs of dam safety upgrades,” Prof Menezes said.
He said QCA had proposed two sets of prices for schemes with planned dam safety upgrades, one which included apportioning a share of dam safety upgrade expenditure to irrigators, and one that did not.
Dam safety upgrades for the Barker Barambah scheme are due to be commissioned in 2027-28.
While price increases will not impact initial prices, the year of 2028-29 is estimated to have a $22.14/ML increase to the cost reflective fixed (Part A) price.
"The QCA's draft recommendations, if adopted, would result in price increases for some schemes,” Prof Menezes said.
He said pricing decisions ultimately rested with the State Government.
"The review's proposed recommendations are limited by the terms of the government's referral and the QCA's obligation under law to consider a range of issues such as efficient resource allocation, equity and regional development,” Prof Menezes said.
"It is likely that some stakeholders will have differing views on the appropriate emphasis to be given to these issues, so I encourage them to participate in the next round of consultation.”
The decisions on pricing for irrigators will be made by the government after the QCA submits its final recommendations on January 31 next year.
Sunwater had submitted updated cost forecasts in June 2019, and made supplementary submissions on a minimum access charge and an electricity costs pass-through mechanism.
"We encourage all stakeholders to participate in this final consultation process to ensure the best outcome for both irrigators and the state,” Prof Menezes said.
The QCA will undertake its final workshop for the Barker Barambah stakeholders in Murgon on October 9.
To register for a workshop or to write a submission, visit the QCA website by November 4, 2019.