water markets

Seasonal Water Usage Update – December 2017

3 January 2018

This article provides an update on water availability and usage across the southern Murray-Darling Basin at the middle of December 2017. The information in this post updates the data presented in our Water Market Outlook October 2017.

This season has presented challenges. A dry spring ending with frosts hurt yield for some winter croppers.  Large portions of the sMDB received record December rainfalls as shown by the map below. This rain made harvest of winter crops difficult but bolstered soil moisture enough to generate some good inflows. The rainfall was a mixed blessing for those growing summer crops – either making it difficult to get onto paddocks, drowning newly emerged crops or providing welcomed pre-soaking.

December Rainfall Deciles

December Rainfall Deciles

The regular cycle of rainfall saw allocation prices slowly trickle down. The large rainfall event touted to dump 150+mm across the region in early December resulted in prices falling dramatically with Murray dipping below $100/ML, Murrumbidgee in the low $100’s and Goulburn in the high $60’s. Since then, prices have recovered and are stable around $115/ML in the Murray and Murrumbidgee regions while Goulburn is around $75/ML.

With respect to water use, the following chart shows;

  • Water use reported by Victorian and NSW authorities
  • Allocated but usued water, including carryover
    • Efficiency dividends and supplementary water are excluded
    • Environmental water is excluded
  • Water use estimate for 2017-2018 (see Water Market Outlook report)
Allocated but unused water, metered usage and estimated water requirements for sMDB

Allocated but unused water, metered usage and estimated water requirements for sMDB

Water use is tracking at ~40% of the estimate in Vic Murray and Murrumbidgee. The wet end to November and start of December offset the dry start to Spring and therefore reduced water usage. The high volume water months are just starting and water use is anticipated to ramp up from now.

Goulburn usage is at ~64% of the estimate use modelled by H2OX in October. The effect of Goulburn accounts linked to Murray properties is minuscule with just over 10GL of allocation being metered to date. This indicates that the on-ground activity is greater than the estimate. As a result, the ~700GL surplus of allocation indicated in the chart is likely to be closer to ~400GL.

NSW Murray have used ~25% of the modelled water use this season. Once again the wet weather in November and beginning of December made it difficult for farmers to sow their crops (let alone harvest winter crops) which has reduced water use. There may also be an element of delays in reading meters.

At this stage, about 1,100GL of water is estimated to remain unused at the end of the 2017-18 season based on our modelling. Depending on how the current La Nina plays out, this may be a handy buffer for irrigators going into the 2018-19 irrigation season, especially given the state of major storages.

As shown in the following chart the volume of water in storage in MDB storages is approximately 15% lower than the same time last year. Dartmouth is the only storage to be holding more water than a year ago.

Major storage levels as at 2 January 2018

Major storage levels as at 2 January 2018

H2OX will provide a further update on the state of water use and availability at the end of summer.