Survey Says: Farmers Want Water Banking

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Water dam on the route between Walgett and Carinda, New South Wales

In a study conducted by the National Centre for Groundwater Research and Training (NCGRT), it was found that farmers in the Namoi catchment area in the Murray Darling Basin are mainly in favour of water banking, which is the process of storing surplus flood water underground.

The survey, conducted on a sample of 210 farmers in the Namoi region, found that two-thirds were in favour of the concept.

Professor Allan Curtis of the NCGRT says that the positive response is a big step towards providing rural and agricultural communities with additional water without drawing more from the over-extracted rivers of the basin.

"Australia’s farmers manage around 65 per cent of the continent and have access to large volumes of surface and groundwater," says Professor Curtis. "With scientists predicting less rainfall and runoff in the southern MDB over the next 60 years, we urgently need to help them address the growing threat of water scarcity."

One of the main advantages of storing water underground is that you no longer lose water to evaporation, as you would normally with a surface dam. Professor Curtis claims that every year 1000 gigalitres are lost to evaporation from farm dams in the Murray Darling Basin alone, "Which is enough to supply Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide for a year."

"It’s an ideal location for implementing water banking using excess flood water, as large floods occur regularly in the lower Namoi, and researchers predict that this will continue to happen in the future," says Professor Curtis.

For those surveyed that expressed concern at the idea, the main worries were either not having enough information or possible negative outcomes for the environment.

Professor Curtis says that water banking from large floods is an opportunity to achieve significant environmental, economic and social benefits, and is "potentially a win-win situation for all."

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