Wet Conditions Impact Water Availability and Charges Across Murray-Darling Basin, ACCC Reports

Australia, Finance

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released its annual water monitoring report, showcasing the impact of wet conditions on water availability and charges across the Murray-Darling Basin in 2022-23.

The report highlights substantial variations in regulated water charges due to different tariff structures and cost recovery approaches adopted by Basin states.

In response to the favorable conditions, irrigators transformed small volumes of irrigation rights, with water delivery rights traded or terminated comprising a minimal proportion of reported rights.

ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh emphasized the importance of keeping stakeholders informed of changes in regulated water charges and market arrangements within the Basin.

The ACCC’s monitoring of infrastructure operators’ compliance with the Water Act ensures operators do not unreasonably restrict the transformation of irrigation rights or impose excessive costs on water users.

In 2022-23, the ACCC received three complaints and nine enquiries on water-related matters, indicating a continued decline in water complaints since 2018-19 and demonstrating most operators’ understanding and adherence to water rules.

The report also includes the preparation of ‘hypothetical bills’ to help irrigators understand their annual charges for different water entitlement and delivery scenarios.

The ACCC report is structured by state, revealing significant differences in regulated water charges between Basin states and the impact of state government policies on typical on-river bills.

Exceptional flooding during the 2022-23 water year, due to above-average rainfall across much of the Basin, led to decreases in volumes of water delivered by infrastructure operators.

As wet conditions continue, it is anticipated that transformation and termination volumes could increase in the coming year, with the potential for further buybacks in the future.