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Future Proofing the MDB. Prof. Mike Young Research Chair, Water Economics and Management The University of Adelaide Griffith University Lighthouse Lecture Brisbane 2 nd June 2008. “The country that takes top prize in water management is Australia”.

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future proofing the mdb

Future Proofing the MDB

Prof. Mike Young

Research Chair, Water Economics and ManagementThe University of Adelaide

Griffith University Lighthouse LectureBrisbane 2nd June 2008

“The country that takes top prize in water management is Australia”

The next prize dependsupon industry & community willingnessto support pursuit ofrobust permanent solutions

which future is best
Which future is best?
  • One that gets the fundamentals right, now?
    • A system that can be confidently explained as able to cope -- whatever future arrives
  • One that commits all to more decades of reform and uncertainty?
    • Incremental progress
    • No guarantee of resolution of current problems
adverse climate change
Mean supply 10,000

River & Storage Evap 2,000

Flow to sea 2,000

Deliverable water 6,000

Environment Use 1,500

Consumptive Use 4,500


Mean supply 7,000

River & Storage Evap 2,000

Flow to sea 2,000

Deliverable water 3,000

Environment Use 1,500

Consumptive Use 1,500


Adverse climate change

In Mediterranean climates, a 10% decline in mean rainfall results in around a 30% decline in mean storage inflow

10% less rain water means a 67% reduction in allocations unless the system is resized

planning for long drys
Planning for long drys

Total River Murray System Inflows (including Darling River)



current southern system
Current Southern System
  • Cap on Diversions
    • Normal years
      • NSW and Vic % Share inflows + obligation to supply SA
      • SA gets 1850 GL + Responsibility for maintaining bottom of system+ 100% entitlement but no carry forward
    • Special accounting
      • Each get ~ 1/3
    • Exceptional circumstances
      • Special arrangements & new rules possible
Indicative template for sharing water among States and with the environment

Volume of Water in the System

interception double counting




Interception & double counting
  • Plus salinity interception
  • Plus overland flow capture


Require interception to be offset (save 1500+ GL) Surrender entitlements equal to deemed impact

use it or sell it because you can t save it
Back to emptyUse it or sell it because you can’t save it

Inflows have dropped 68% but use has only dropped 12

Got by running the system too low

SolutionAllow saving (Carry forward) of all water with an adjustment for evaporative losses

Change MoU, Agreement and Act to allow SA to carry forward water.

adverse climate change1
Mean supply 10,000

River & Storage Evap 2,000

Flow to sea 2,000

Deliverable water 6,000

Environment Use 1,500

Consumptive Use 4,500


Mean supply 4,000

River & Storage Evap 2,000

Flow to sea 2,000

Deliverable water 0

Environment Use 0

Consumptive Use 0


Adverse climate change

In Mediterranean climates, a 20% decline in mean rainfall results in around a 60% decline in mean storage inflow

20% less rain means the system has to either be reconfigured or abandoned!

system reconfiguration options reducing evaporation
System reconfiguration options(Reducing evaporation)
  • More dams
    • What will you fill them with?
  • New sources
    • None have yet to passed detailed analysis
  • Leakage and seepage
    • Most eventually reaches the river (for a gain most can’t be shared)
    • Better control
    • A short term gain
  • Evaporation
    • Real savings
    • Lakes, wetlands, weir pools, river height, etc
environmental security
Environmental security
  • The environment is the interest that always loses
    • Irrigation Security at cost of Environmental Security
      • 83% reductions from environment
      • 17% reduction from users
  • SolutionGive the environment a share that has the same status as that given to all other users (as in NWI)
  • Allow environment to carry over water

{Entitlement purchases for environment are doing this!}

First priority to maintenance water needed for conveyance, evaporation, etc

future proofing the basin www myoung net au
Future-proofing the Basinwww.myoung.net.au
  • A sustainable sharing system for ground & surface water
    • Maintenance water (conveyance, evaporation + min flow to sea)
    • Shares for all non-flood water
  • Put all states under the same regime and give all the opportunity to save water
    • Share inflows (no cap the diversions)
    • Shares issued to environment and States
  • 100% carry over of all water
    • Continuous accounting – similar to Dudley’s capacity sharing system
  • Require off-set of all land use change that erodes entitlement reliability (forests, dams, SIS)
    • State shares reduced as interception increases
  • An independent authority making allocations to shareholders
  • If still dry, review system configuration & size from top to bottom
    • Search for evaporative savings
waterfind buy back warning
Waterfind buy-back warning
  • Purchase entire entitlement market would take 14 years to get 1500 GL.
  • If limit govt. to 30%, so some opportunities for structural adjustment remain, would take 47 years to get 1500 GL.
  • Warning that upward revision likely
    • CSIRO Sustainable yield report
    • Recent MDB report to Ministers says the collective effects of climate change, bushfire, afforestation, groundwater extraction, irrigation return flows and farm dams “could reduce stream flow by approximately 2,570 GL per year by 2023 and by up to 4,690 GL per year by 2053.”
5 billion now or up to 10 billion over 10 years
$5 billion now or up to $10 billion over 10 years?

Pay $3.5 billion just and fair compensation now to southern irrigators and irrigation companies for a future-proofed regime to commence in 3 irrigation season’s time. Waive all govt. water trading charges. Informed by CSIRO modelling, environment’s share could be phased in.

(A confident step change, a new Agreement, a predictable sustainable future)

off market share buybacks
Off-market share buybacks
  • Corporate experience reveals that large buybacks are best implemented quickly using an off-market mechanism.
  • Coles Myer in 2005 provided one of the better known examples of a corporate buyback.
coles myer 2005 press release
Coles Myer “2005” Press Release
  • Price paid and volume shares purchased
    • Off-market buy-back price $8.30

{All who offered $8.30 or below per share were paid $8.30}

    • 70.4 million shares bought back for a total of $585m
    • Secured 5.7% of Coles Myer shares on issue
indicative structure of water buyback tender
Indicative structure of water buyback tender
  • Irrigators invited to tender to sell a proportion or all of their water licence with option to lease back until 30th June 2010. (No change over the next two irrigation seasons).
  • Tender closes on 30 October.
  • Participants notified 2 weeks later on November 15th.
  • For each type of irrigation licence, a single clearing price will be paid.
  • Payments made two weeks later on 30th November.
  • Entitlements may be leased back for next two irrigation seasons at $300 per ML of allocation received.
  • This year’s allocation remains with licence holder for free.
illustrative offer form high security entitlement
Type of Licence South Australian River Murray Licence

Offer 1 …………….. ML @ not less than $2,400.00 per ML

Offer 2 …………….. ML @ not less than $2,700.00 per ML

Offer 3 …………….. ML @ not less than $3,000.00 per ML

Offer 4 …………….. ML @ not less than $3,300.00 per ML

Offer 5 …………….. ML @ not less than $3,400.00 per ML


Licence holder …………………………………………

Registered interest (if any) …………………………..

Will you be leasing back any allocations made to these entitlements at $300 per ML of allocation made until 30 June 2010? Yes / No

Illustrative Offer form (High security entitlement)
future proofing the southern mdb
Future-proofing the southern MDB
  • Future-proofed entitlement systems
    • First commitment is to maintain the system
    • Then to share the remaining non-flood water
  • Environment as equal shareholder
  • Enforceable register and accounts
  • Efficient storage and adjustment markets
      • Carry-forward - so we can all start rebuilding (some safety)
      • Instantaneous, low cost trading
  • Require offset of all increases in un-metered and un-meterable water use
    • Forestry, dams, salinity interception, leakage prevention, etc
  • No selective government investment in infrastructure
    • A level playing field with full cost pricing
    • Financial recompense paid to all entitlement holders and adequate warning about the nature of the once-off change to be made
  • Re- set the system as quickly as possible
    • NWI Consistent investment
    • Send out the money now and engage all in bottom-up process
    • Options include Coles-Myer like buy-back
    • Assist water supply companies to target and reconfigure inefficient areas
recommended changes to the draft coag s mou
Recommended changes to the draft CoAG’s MoU
  • Establish maintenance as a system responsibility.
    • Authority to set aside enough and allocate the rest to States and the environment.
    • Entire connected ground & surface water system (not just the River Murray stem)
  • Environmental entitlements defined in same manner as irrigation entitlements, on system register and fines to States for over-use
  • 100% carry forward for all States and Environment.
    • SA with storage rights the same as other States
  • 100% offset of interception from 2010.
  • Commitment to finalise foundations for the regime upon which a robust Basin Plan can be built within 6 months.
Download our report from www.myoung.net.au


Prof Mike Young

Water Economics and Management

Email: [email protected]

Phone: +61-8-8303.5279Mobile: +61-408-488.538 www.myoung.net.au