IRRIGATORS on Victoria's Murray system will finally get access to the water in their spillable accounts.
The Resource Manager for northern Victorian regulated water systems today announced water held in spillable water accounts is now available for use or trade
The announcement follows a declaration of a low risk of spill on the Murray system.
Resource manager Dr Mark Baily said releases from the Victorian share of Lake Hume during December have created enough capacity to capture any spill releases coming from Dartmouth Reservoir, including the current pre-releases.
“The availability of this capacity has enabled the declaration of a low risk of spill for the Murray system, which will return water in spillable accounts to Allocation Bank Accounts for entitlement holders to use or trade," Dr Bailey said.
He said the risk of spill was considered to be low when the probability of filling during the remainder of the season was less than one chance in 10.
“This is a statistical assessment, which means it is still possible for Victoria’s shares of Dartmouth Reservoir and Lake Hume to fill later this season," Dr Bailey said.
"Customer accounts will not be affected should this happen.
"However, we must be clear that today’s declaration is about the availability of allocated water resources and not a statement about the potential for flooding this season.”
Murray entitlement holders can carry over any unused water at the end of this season now that the Minister for Water has deferred the new cap on carryover on the Murray system until 2014.
Dr Bailey said the limits on allocation trade from New South Wales to Victoria, announced by the Minister for Water in November last year, come into effect today.
Net trade from NSW to Victoria is subject to a 200 GL annual limit, which is still largely available and can be tracked at the Water Register.
The Resource Manager will review the spill risk limit monthly and make the next announcement on 15 February 2013.
The low risk of spill declaration means Sunraysia irrigators who have overdrawn their Allocation Bank Accounts, can now pay back the water.
Lower Murray Water has allowed irrigators to go into deficit on their Allocation Bank Accounts during the Christmas period.
General manager of customer service Owen Russell said usually irrigators were notified as soon as they went into deficit and had 28 days to make up the deficit or risk being charged an overuse fee of $1000 per megalitre.
However, Mr Russell said during the Christmas and New Year period the irrigators were not pursued for the overdrawn accounts because the LMW offices were closed and there is an announcement on spillwater due tomorrow.
He said LMW wanted to make sure customers knew of recent changes to carryover and spillwater policy when deciding whether to buy allocation.
Irrigators cannot access water in their spill accounts until there's a low risk of spill announcement on the Murray system.
"This was a one off situation and was only advised to customers who made contact with LMW and had concerns about going into deficit," Mr Russell said.
He said LMW had made it clear that once the outcome of tomorrow's spillwater announcement was made customers will once again start receiving overuse notifications if they are in deficit on their ABAs.
Victorian Farmers Federation water spokesman Bill McClumpha said the practice was unfair as not all irrigators knew about it.
"Letting irrigators borrow against their spillable accounts was a good initiative, but plenty of irrigators buying water to get through the heatwave prior to harvest were unaware of it and have been disadvantaged," Mr McClumpha said.
Goulburn Murray Water head of customer service Geoff Enever said G-MW customers must have allocation available and accessible in their allocation bank accounts before placing an order for water.
"G-MW does not approve usage in excess of a customers’ ABA balance pending the announcement of a declaration or determination announcement," Mr Enever said.
"If a customer uses more water than is available in their ABA, G-MW has an overuse policy which can result in the customer being charged an over use fee of $2000 a megalitre."
Mr Enever said G-MW had limited discretion to allow customers to take water in excess of the allocation in their ABA.
"This authority is generally only exercised in circumstances where, due to actions outside the customers control, a delay in transferring allocation has occurred and the management is aware that processes are in place to cover usage," he said.