“It’s a very welcome boost and provides greater certainty and security for agricultural producers, other water-critical industries and the environment.
“The additional water for irrigators and industry will bring much-needed benefits for the economies of many regional centres, towns and villages in western NSW that have struggled during the drought” Mr Rees said.
Burrendong Dam is now at 20.4 per cent capacity providing enough water to allow:
o increased water allocation for town utilities, high-security licence holders, and domestic and stock users to 100 per cent of entitlement;
o general security licence holders to access 100 per cent of the water suspended in their 2007/08 accounts,
o approximately 13,000 megalitres of water suspended from the environmental water account to now be accessed
o water trading between Cudgegong and Macquarie licensees to re-commence.
“During the drought we were forced to suspend the Macquarie Cudgegong Water Sharing Plan, however, this extra water means we can now allow irrigators within the valleys to start trading water again,” Mr Rees said.
“This will provide much- needed additional water for production or funds to help ease the financial pressure many of the region’s irrigators are feeling.”
The Department of Water and Energy will review the water- sharing plan suspension in light of current and future water availability, and revise water allocations and restrictions as appropriate.
Acting Minister for Primary Industries, Linda Burney, added, “Recent rainfall across parts of northern NSW gives us renewed hope that in 2008 we may see a change in fortunes for the State’s drought-weary farmers.
“The Bureau of Meteorology’s rainfall outlook says the chances of exceeding median rainfall over January to March are between 60 to 75 per cent.
“The State’s summer crop area is well down on previous years, however, grain prices are very strong and with some more rain at the right time some farmers may secure a bumper harvest.
“These falls boosted sub-soil moisture levels and raised farmers’ spirits ahead of the 2008 winter crop which will see dual- purpose cereal crops planted as early as March.
“Compared to the last seven years we are off to a great start,” she said.
“Continuing rain to renew pasture growth and boost soil moisture is now needed to build on this. For example, at Forbes soil moisture levels for this time of year are the best seen since January 2000.
“And while the country looks dry, there is an amount of moisture under the surface in most parts that come March will help early establishment of winter crops.
“Summer rains will come at some cost. Croppers will be required to maintain fallow paddocks free of weeds to conserve precious moisture and soil nitrogen.”
The area of NSW in drought is 69.4%, 14.9% is marginal and 15.7% is satisfactory.