ACTION: Please take action now to protect your rights as a self-supply water user:

Hon Dave J Kelly BA MLA
Minister for Water
8th Floor, Dumas House
2 Havelock Street, WEST PERTH WA 6005

Dear Minister


I am a ‘self-supply’ water user producing food in the Shire of Manjimup and write to express strong opposition to limits on rights to access water imposed by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation publicised on 20 December 2017. By policy decisions, the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (‘the Department’) has stopped issuing of new water licences in the catchment of the Donnelly River and stopped issuing water licences in vital sub-catchments in the Warren and Donnelly River Catchments where land is zoned ‘Priority Agriculture’.

Minister, these unfair and unreasonable limits on food producers to the exercise of rights to water under the Rights in Water and Irrigation Act (1914) have an immediate negative impact on plans for food production and the value of land used for food production. These changes were introduced without consultation with stakeholders, including the Warren Donnelly Water Advisory Committee. The radical changes appear to be crude coercion of food producers into the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, rather than self-supply from their own dams. Indeed, the Department states in advertisements the stopping of new water licences in the catchment of the Donnelly River is because of the 15 gigalitre capacity dam sought by the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme. The Scheme proponents began water sales on 8 January 2018; however, no water from the Scheme will be delivered until after June 2021.

It is unacceptable that the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme impinges on the rights to water of self-supply water users producing food. The ‘Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan’ (2012) was primarily pitched at the interests of 484 self-supply water licence holders with a total water allocation of 33 gigalitres. These water licence holders constructed their own dams without subsidy from State or Federal Governments and have used the water efficiently for food production in what has become known as the ‘Food Bowl of the South West’. It should be noted that the amount of water held in private dams is generally less than the increased flow in streams that resulted from clearing of forest for agriculture many decades ago. Thus, there is no net negative impact of self-supply water users on environmental water in major streams and rivers.

In considering the relative rights of self-supply water users compared to the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme, the Scheme is receiving $19 million subsidy from the State Government and a possible $40 million from the Federal Government, and the 10 gigalitres of Scheme water will be sourced directly from environmental water in the Donnelly River and the forested Record Brook. The 15 gigalitre dam planned for the Scheme will require clearing of 150 hectares of State Forest; whereas self-supply water users generally cannot clear vegetation for dams on their properties.

Minister, self-supply water users must be fairly treated if the Southern Forests Irrigation Scheme proceeds. It is unreasonable to deny water rights to self-supply water user food producers to anti-competitively favour a Government subsidised irrigation Scheme. Please direct the Department to remove the unreasonable limits on rights to water in the Warren and Donnelly River Catchments introduced in late 2017. I await your reply.

Yours sincerely

Sponsored by ‘Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners’: an association of participants in agricultural sectors in the Manjimup and Pemberton area using water from the Warren and Donnelly River catchments captured in private dams. Our ‘self-supply’ water user group convened in March 2007 to respond to water reforms proposed by the previous State Labor Government; the initial challenge was responding to harsh water licence fees which were defeated in State Parliament in November 2007 and April 2008. Subsequently, in 2009 Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners again successfully responded when the Barnett coalition Government attempted to introduce costly water resource management charges as a 'water tax grab'. See Past Campaigns by 'MPL'.

Policy Position Statement on Water Allocations by Manjimup and Pemberton Landowners: Please download and read:

Note the current Department of Water 'Warren-Donnelly surface water allocation plan (2012)' states at page 31 'Consideration of future large scale irrigation schemes is beyond the scope of this allocation plan.'. Thus the State Government's current water allocation plan makes no provision for water for the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme. Despite this, the State Government has ignored the allocation plan and shut down fourteen vital sub-catchments for new farm dams, to favour the Irrigation Scheme.

Contact: Email:   Phone: 97724098