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Water Overview

During nearly half a century of hydroindustrialisation, Tasmanians developed a reputation for building systems to ensure water resources were well-managed. Today that advantage continues on the back of wide-ranging investment in new irrigation schemes, and structural and regulatory reforms to drinking and waste water.

Tasmania is investing in and planning to capitalise on the comparative advantage that it has with water. Tasmania has less than one per cent of Australia's total land area but captures almost 12 per cent of the nation's total annual water run-off. The extent of Tasmania's advantage is clear when it is compared to the Murray Darling Basin which represents 14 per cent of the nation's land area yet captures just over six per cent of run-off. Tasmania has twice the run-off of the entire Murray Darling Basin, and of this large amount, two per cent is captured for consumption.

For rural communities and businesses, making more of our water advantage means access to secure and sustainable water supplies for irrigation as well as for drinking. And the economic case for irrigation is robust.

Tasmanian agriculture is worth about $1 billion a year at the farm-gate. The State's land-based primary industries comprise essentially field crops, livestock, dairy, fruit, vegetables and wine. Half of this total farmgate value comes from just four per cent of Tasmania's irrigated farmland.

It's easy to understand why access to secure water is the single, biggest factor affecting the growth of the primary production sector, and a key to the development of Tasmania as the nation's food bowl. Securing this water is being achieved in two ways. One is through the regionally significant water development projects being progressed as public-private partnerships under the drive and governance of the Tasmanian Irrigation Development Board. The other is by farmers alone, either through water development at the level of the individual farm enterprise, or collaboratively by groups of neighbouring farmers.

Government is doing its part. The Tasmanian and Federal Governments between them have earmarked $220 million for water development. The schemes in total will cost considerably more than that. The private partners in the equation are the producers, and the vehicle for their capital contribution is the purchase of tradeable water rights.

Tasmania is pursuing 13 regional schemes as partnerships between the public and private sectors, and each of these is moving forward in a logical and systematic manner. Development is underpinned by a robust planning and regulatory framework.

Tasmania's drinking water and sewerage sector is also undergoing significant structural and regulatory reforms. Three new regional corporations have been established to deliver reticulated services throughout the State. This reform was driven by a review, which found that around $1 billion needs to be spent over the next 10 years to update and extend the network. The legislative framework that underpins the reform ensures that infrastructure will be planned, operated, and maintained with well developed management systems, independent economic regulation, and well defined prices and service standards.