The Ministerial Policy was approved by the Minister for Primary Industries and Water on 4 November 2015 and aims to better balance the water needs of people, stock and irrigators during extremely dry conditions.
There are two areas that DPIPWE will work with farmers to best manage the available water during such conditions:
Flexible implementation of restrictions
- Tasmania's water management system has been developed using long-term hydrological data.
- Under normal climatic conditions, implementation of restriction is generally routinely managed.
- The current extremely dry conditions require an adaptation of current restriction policies.
- Under specific conditions, and on an individual catchment basis, DPIPWE may withold the issuing of a restriction notice.
- This will provide more flexibility in how and when restrictions apply on a catchment by catchment basis.
Increased flexibility for conveyancing of water
- Normally, conveyancing of stored water involves transferring it downstream from one location to the extraction point for pick-up.
- Increased flexibility may allow water to be extracted upstream of the release point under specific circumstances, including where there is no impact on other irrigators.
- DPIPWE will also forgo all or part of the requirement to account for transmission loss where possible. That is, the amount of water extracted should be close to the amount released.
Before issuing a restriction notice, DPIPWE must consider the following:
- whether any significant rainfall is forecast for the area
- the volume of water required to meet critical human and animal welfare needs
- the volume of water being taken for irrigation and the ongoing demand for irrigation water
- crop vunerability factors
- the availability of viable, alternative water supplies and the ability of the water market to provide access to alternative water supplies
- the needs of the major ecosystems that depend on that water resource for water, and specifically whether the continued taking of water for irrigation is likely to have a significant impact on a matter of national environmental significance.
As always, DPIPWE staff will be on the ground to help licence holders meet their obligations. In times of high stress and potential hardship within our farming community, we will continue to focus on education to encourage compliant behaviour. We will work with catchment communities wherever possible to achieve the best outcome in managing water resources and undertaking compliance activities during extreme dry conditions.
Managing Water in Extremely Dry Conditions
Ministerial Policy Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions
Ministerial Policy Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions November 2015
Extreme dry conditions affect much of Tasmania from time to time, and are often characterised by well below average winter rainfall, followed by dry spring and summer periods with very low stream flows.
Tasmania's water resource management system has been developed, by necessity, in relation to long-term hydrological conditions; those that prevail in the majority of years.
In most years, water resource management provisions developed in relation to long‑term hydrological conditions provide an appropriate balance between consumptive water needs and environmental water needs.
However, the specific provisions within Tasmania's water management system have not been developed to manage the circumstances occurring in extreme dry years. Strict implementation of these provisions during such times would often result in persistent restrictions on the taking of water through the irrigation season.
This would have unacceptable impacts on farming enterprises and regional communities, an outcome that would not be consistent with the objectives of the Water Management Act 1999.
The Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions Policy is a Ministerial policy under section 8 of the Water Management Act, that sets out water resource management procedures to be implemented in Tasmania during extreme dry conditions. This will ensure an appropriate balance between consumptive water needs and environmental water needs under these circumstances.
The Policy simply directs how the provisions of the Water Management Act, and water management plans more broadly, are to be implemented in regard to specific water availability circumstances under extreme dry conditions.
This means that through an adaptive management approach, farmers may be able to take water for irrigation at times when they would otherwise be prevented from doing so, were the long‑term based provisions of the water resource management system strictly adhered to.
In accordance with the Policy, on 4 November 2015 the Minister for Primary Industries and Water determined that extreme dry conditions were prevailing in Tasmania and specified that all water resources in Tasmania were subject to the implementation of the Policy until such time as extreme dry conditions no longer prevail.
On 24 July 2016 the Minister for Primary Industries and Water determined that the policy would cease to apply following the high levels of rainfall across Tasmania during May and June.
Review of the implementation of the Ministerial Policy during 2015-16
There is a requirement that the Water Resource Management During Extreme Dry Conditions Policy be reviewed within six months after each implementation period.
A report has been prepared on the review of the Policy’s implementation during 2015-16 and details what actions were taken under the Policy during the period. The report also makes a number of recommendations to support future implementation.
Review of the implementation of Ministerial policy 2015/1 Water Resource Management during extreme dry conditions during 2015-16
Two reports outline the ecological and hydrological effects of the extreme dry conditions during 2015-16.
2015-2016 Statewide Dry Season Hydrology Review
Effects of dry climatic conditions during 2015/16 on rivers in Tasmania