House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources Report on Water Use Efficiency
The report by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources on water use efficiency has been released (here) (my joint Submission, and Hansard testimony to the Committee).
The report is very well developed and researched and its one of the few instances where I can clearly say, that what I wrote and talked about was carefully considered.
I can also clearly state that the Committee also carefully understood their Terms of Reference
“The Committee will inquire into and report on water use efficiency in Australian agriculture. The inquiry will have particular regard to:
And the guidance given to it by Government Members
“1.6 The Minister for Agriculture and Resources, the Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, also noted that the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Environment and Energy would be conducting an inquiry into the management of Commonwealth environmental water resources and therefore suggested that the Committee on Agriculture and Water Resources ‘may wish to limit its consideration of environmental flows in order to avoid duplication’.” P2, repeated on p 65
This document is very clever. The Committee clearly understands what is going on in this space, its wider connotations, and difference that WUE has for the individual versus society. This understanding and ability to limit its responses back to the terms of reference and guidance by Hon. Barnaby Joyce MP, carefully allows the report to directly bypass the concerns raised by the author, and numerous other submissions and speakers at the public hearings, dealing with the rebound effect and their impact on the environment when it comes to their recommendations. However, the report does not shirk away from its responsibility and carefully raises a very important issue in
6.39 The Committee recommends that the Australian Government require any water efficiency infrastructure funding or assistance provided to set out:
This I think nicely relates back to a point I raised
“3.48 Dr Adamson noted that in time Governments will be asked to justify the amounts of money they are spending on WUE programs:
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan is what was in the national interest. The national interest is wider than irrigators—it is the community, the society and the environment.” P 34.
I have been reflecting on my work in this area and I think we need a new line of argument, its no longer just that the subsidisation of WUE may change the risk attitudes of individuals (i.e. incentivises are wrong) but this policy goes against everything Australia’s drought policy is designed to do.
WUE encourages risk by failing to understand water supply uncertainty. Drought policy is designed to make individuals accountable for and understand the risk that our variable climate poses and to protect Australia’s environmental resources. To enable this, government policy (see: here and here) has encouraged: the development of individual:
It is unfortunate that the current signals from one policy are un-doing the benefits from another.