The State Government has delivered its election commitment to halt a plan to reduce the water allocations of about 470 water licence holders in the Lower Limestone Coast Prescribed Wells Area in the South East.
The Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan specifies reductions to water allocations in six management areas on the Lower Limestone Coast from 1 July 2018.
“I have put these reductions on hold to allow for a review of the science underpinning this plan to take place,” said Minister for Environment and Water David Speirs.
“It is important to ensure that the science on which these planned reductions are based is robust.
“I have been advised such a hold in the short-term will not pose an immediate risk to the groundwater resource.
“These proposed water allocation cuts would also hurt the local South East economy and our primary producers in the region.
“If the science isn’t robust and accurate then the productivity of our primary producers suffers and that has a flow on effect throughout the local economy.
“Longer term implications for water allocation policy will be considered at the conclusion of the science review.
“I’ve asked the South East Natural Resources Management Board to lead the science review, which will be undertaken in collaboration with the Department for Environment and Water, key stakeholders and the community.
“The process and scope of the review are now being developed and correspondence is being sent to all water licence holders in the South East.
“I encourage the community to actively participate in the review once it is initiated.”
The Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan was adopted in 2013 and addresses the long-term sustainability of Lower Limestone Coast’s Prescribed Wells Area through assessing factors such as groundwater trends and recharge over a five- and ten-year period.
It found that at the time, eight of the 61 water management areas were at high or very high risk.
Under the Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan, reductions were completed in two management areas in July 2016, with the remaining six to be phased in three stages over a five-year period.