Creating wealth from our water

John Langford, John Briscoe and Michael Porter | From: The Australian  |November 01, 2010

It may surprise you to know that for Australia, the worldwide water situation is an opportunity more than a crisis. Unlike most of our food exporting competitors, our major population centres are largely coastal and have water insurance in terms of desalination plants. So our food bowls need not be drained by the cities and can implement a wide range of productivity enhancements. Hence, water is not a rigid constraint on either our population or our production. Our relative situation has been helped by innovations such as trading of water rights, pricing reforms, and the development of water grids. And the relative price of food is likely to rise more than these costs, creating advantages for agricultural exports.

The main cause of the tension over Murray Darling Basin water rights is the decade-long drought. The heat generated by the release of the guide to the basin plan is the darkness before dawn. It is possible to find a new equilibrium of a healthy irrigation economy and a healthy river. Providing food security for the growing and increasingly prosperous populations of Asia is an opportunity for irrigators. Australia’s adaptable farmers, used to living with the vagaries of climate and subsidised international commodity markets, are a great national asset. The foundation provided by Australia’s internationally recognised record of water reform is another vital asset. But Australia’s irrigation sector has lead in its saddle bags. It lacks leadership at the government, commodity and farm level. It speaks with divergent voices and ignores key parties.

Read the full article from The Australian

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