DOZENS of irrigators south of Mount Gambier could face water cuts amid scientific monitoring finding “catastrophic” consequences to the aquifer.
This follows findings by Goyder Institute for Research that has labelled the groundwater in two Limstone Coast farm areas as high risk.
The looming issue has prompted concerns that any potential cuts could see around 1000 dairy cows lost to the regional industry.
It is understood low rainfall and “high” irrigation use have triggered a downward trend in the aquifer system in these areas.
Areas affected include Allendale East, Port MacDonnell and Mount Schank in addition to parts of Eight Mile Creek and OB Flat – which are in the MacDonnell Hundred – along with area between Naracoorte and Penola in the Joanna Hundred.
Areas such as Coles in the Limestone Coast’s north have previously been labelled as high risk, with licensees copping water allocations cuts of up to 10pc.
The Border Watch understands the Natural Resources South East will hold a meeting with stakeholders next month following a mass mail-out to affected licence-holders.
Despite concerns, Environment and Water Minister David Speirs said although the level of risk in the MacDonnell and Joanna management areas had changed to high, reductions would not be implemented “at this time”.
Allendale East dairy farmer and industry leader John Hunt warned any cuts could cause severe damage to the region’s vital dairy industry.
Although Mr Hunt held concerns for the industry, he said he understood the need for further risk management of the area.
“Water is an important resource to us all and we of course do not want it to run out,” he said.
“It is in nobody’s best interest for it to dry up and we are willing to do what we need to, to steer away from that.”
He said a 10pc cut would mean a significant loss to the farming community.
“We need to find a solution that does not hurt the dairy industry but protects our water resource for the future,” the producer said.
With the small area home to a dense portion of the Limestone Coast’s dairy properties, Mr Hunt said cuts could mean a loss of around 1000 dairy cows.
“There is approximately 10,000 dairy cows around the MacDonnell Hundred, a 10pc water cut would mean 10pc of the property gone, 10pc of the herd, 10pc of profits, it all goes hand in hand,” he said.
“That is a significant blow.
“Imagine if you had just expanded and you were told you could not use that land due to allocation cuts, that is hundreds of thousands of
dollars that you are out of pocket.
“That 10pc is seen as the cream for many dairy farmers, without it we would just be breaking even.”
Mr Hunt encouraged all affected parties to make their voices heard at the meeting.
“We need everyone involved to go and share their concerns,” he said.
“If no one turns up then they might think it would not be an issue.
“This consultation opportunity is there and we need to take advantage of that.”
A statement from Natural Resources South East said the consultation process in MacDonnell had started, with preliminary consultation with Joanna licensees starting February.