As the water service provider for the current Ord River Irrigation Area, the Ord Irrigation Cooperative has a surface water licence (Licence No. SWL 156287) issued under section 5C of the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act 1914. The licence is the largest in Western Australia. The approved operating strategy for the licence requires the Cooperative to maintain a register of water entitlements so that members’ annual water allocations can be adjusted to meet the requirements of seasonal water availability. In the case of the existing irrigation area, each member of the Cooperative has a water entitlement calculated by multiplying the farm area (hectares) by 17. This figure is the member’s entitlement in megalitres and is also deemed to be the member’s number of shares in the Cooperative.
The Ord Irrigation Cooperative is fully supportive of water trading within the existing irrigation area and anticipates broadening the trading rules between all new areas developed for irrigation within the region. The Cooperative does not prevent water trading outside the region despite the increased risk of creating stranded assets, which would be a detriment to the East Kimberley.
The Cooperative currently supports water trading between members by providing a proforma to record trades and maintains a trade register. Members are limited in the volume of water they may trade. Currently a total of 5ML per hectare may be traded from the total entitlement of 17ML per hectare. Trades may be permanent or temporary and all require Board approval.
Acquisition of water entitlements for new farms in the irrigation expansion area on the Weaber Plain is likely to be different to the Stage 1 area where a standard 17ML per hectare has been agreed.
The Ord Irrigation Cooperative looks forward to developing highly flexible trading rules in conjunction with the Department of Water and consistent with the National Water Initiative in future years.