WA water wars

28 Jun, 2007 07:00 PM
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FARMERS who spent time and money building their own dams to store water for stock and domestic uses have been told by Water Resources Minister John Kobelke that they will have to pay for the water they collect.

In the latest instalment of the long-running and contentious water levy saga, Mr Kobelke tried to put a positive spin on the announcement last week when he said results of a review he had requested would provide imme-diate relief to more than 100 licenced surface water users in the South-West.

He said farmers who had built large dams to drought-proof their properties would now be required to pay for the water they drew from their dams, making dam water users consistent with bore water users.

³The changes mean water users who previously faced charges based on the capacity of their dams will automatically have their fee adjusted to reflect the amount they are licensed to use,² Mr Kobelke said.

³Water licence administration fees, which will apply from July 1, are designed to cover the administration costs associated with the need to licence water extraction.

³Licensing ensures water is sustainably managed and allocated in a fair way.²

Farmers raised their concerns with Mr Kobelke about the impact of licensing fees, arguing they faced the prospect of being charged for water they would not use.

Mr Kobelke has moved to ensure water users pay only for the water they use, not how much water they can store.

³Most of the state¹s more than 20,000 farm dams do not require a water licence and therefore do not face any changes,² he said.

WAFarmers Water Resources spokesman Steve Dilley said the decision by the government was all smoke and mirrors.

³We are bewildered and disappointed at the minister¹s lack of understanding of the impact this will have on the average fruit and veggie grower and the family farming operations in the state,² Mr Dilley said.

³They will be paying on average from $600 to $1200 or $1800 a year.

³That the minister can exempt licence fees for more than 2700 domestic bores was a real slap in the face.

³How could any government proceed with a fee structure that makes family farms pay $102 to $2.40 a megalitre of water licensed, yet water utilities, big water cooperatives and mining companies only pay 14 cents a megalitre.

³I am staggered that the minister did not at least make the most obvious change and charge everyone the average cost of $2.27 per megalitre ‹ at least that would have gone some way to making the fee structure fairer.²

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