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Patience runs dry for Dirranbandi irrigators

DRYING UP: Cotton grower Frank Deshon has concerns about MDBA plans to recoup more water.
DRYING UP: Cotton grower Frank Deshon has concerns about MDBA plans to recoup more water. David Barwell

FRANK Deshon could never have imagined he would spend 30 years of his life campaigning for common sense, but it's a distraction he is now pretty used to.

The Dirranbandi farmer is president of Smart Rivers, an organisation dedicated to proactive irrigation water management and healthy waterways.

The latest blow to irrigators in the region is the announcement that the Murray Darling Basin Authority is looking to claw back a further 38 gigalitres from the Northern Basin.

But Mr Deshon and his band of campaigning irrigators believe there is no way to spare that kind of water without a further 450 jobs leaving the region, and all of the flow-on social and economic effects that has on towns.

Instead, they want to see the MDBA implement other tools for water saving.

"Out here the Smart Rivers perspective is enough is enough,” he said.

"There has been enough damage caused by the 66GL voluntary buy-back, yet so far they haven't tried anything in the tool box.

"At the moment they're only concerned about more water in the river and not monitoring the outcomes.

"All they're concerned with is reaching a number.”

Mr Deshon said there was a veritable raft of other measures that could be implemented before looking at taking the water from irrigators.

He believed the supply of farmers willing to enter into voluntary buy-backs had dwindled to zero already, leaving many wondering how the next measures could even be implemented without forcing the hands of farmers.

He said there likely wasn't a farmer out there who wasn't already interested in making their property more water efficient, which holds mutual benefits for the environment and the farmer.

Options like a store and release system and making better use of where the water goes and shepherding it there efficiently should all take priority over water resumption.

"We're all looking at ways we can drive our megalitres further; all the farmers are embracing that.

"But once the water is gone, it's gone forever and the jobs go with it.”

Mr Deshon is encouraging people to lodge their views before the cut-off date for submissions on February 10.

To have your say, visit www.farmers.org.au and look for the Northern Basin Campaign.

Topics:  dirranbandi irrigation


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