Under Australian law, many farms and other businesses have abstraction rights allowing them to use a specified volume from the water table.

The country’s federal government has adopted a plan of buying back these rights as part of an ongoing programme to avert further drought.

This week, Acting Minister for Water, Peter Garrett, announced a further AU$270m of funding for the project.

A series of three short tenders of $90 million each will be conducted in the southern connected River Murray system in the first half of 2010.

These tenders will effectively offer willing sellers cash for their water rights.

“The first of the tenders in the southern connected Basin will open on 11 January 2010 and close on 29 January 2010,” Mr Garrett said.

“Following this, the two subsequent tenders are scheduled to open for three weeks each commencing in March and April 2010 respectively.”

Mr Garrett said the new tender rounds formed part of the Government’s $3.1 billion commitment to buy water from the market to put back into the rivers of the Murray Darling Basin.

“By purchasing water from willing sellers and investing in irrigation infrastructure, we are smoothing the transition for irrigation communities as they adjust to new, lower limits on water use that we can expect under the Basin Plan,” Mr Garrett said.

“Across the Murray Darling Basin, the current challenges posed by drought and climate change have been compounded by decades of mismanagement.”

A decision on 2009/10 water purchase tender opportunities elsewhere in the basin will be made in early 2010.

By the end of November 2009, the Australian Government had bought 651 billion litres of water at a cost of $1.01 billion.

Sam Bond

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