New stats show wet conditions in the Murray-Darling Basin during 2022-23 maintained high water availability.

The ACCC monitors regulated water charges imposed by monopoly infrastructure providers and the transformation of irrigation rights into standalone water access entitlements. In 2022-23, the transformation and trading of irrigation rights were minimal.

According to the ACCC's annual water monitoring report (here), regulated water charges varied significantly across the Basin states in the year due to different tariff structures and cost recovery methods.

The ACCC also monitors infrastructure operators’ compliance with water rules. These operators typically hold monopolies in geographically exclusive areas. 

“The ACCC monitors infrastructure operators’ compliance with the Water Act to ensure their activities do not unnecessarily restrict transformation of irrigation rights, the trading of the resulting water access entitlements, or impose unreasonable costs on water users,” ACCC Deputy Chair Mick Keogh said.

The report recorded a decline in water-related complaints, with only three complaints and nine enquiries in 2022-23. 

To ensure transparency, the ACCC prepares 'hypothetical bills' to estimate annual charges for different water entitlements and delivery scenarios. 

Hypothetical on-river bills for Sunwater’s irrigation customers in Queensland rose by 0.2 per cent to 7 per cent in 2022-23. The Queensland Government applied a 15 per cent discount to recommended charges and provided an additional 35 per cent discount to horticulturalists.

In New South Wales, hypothetical on-river bills increased by 11-12 per cent after a significant 59 per cent rise in 2021-22 for general security water access entitlements.

Charges by Goulburn-Murray Water and Lower Murray Water in Victoria have risen by less than inflation since 2019-20, falling in real terms. 

“Water storage levels were high in Victoria in 2022-23 and substantial rainfall kept demand for irrigation water down,” Keogh noted.

Typical bills for private diverters and Central Irrigation Trust and Renmark Irrigation Trust customers in South Australia fell in real terms. 

However, SA Water charges remain the highest among regulated water charges monitored by the ACCC due to higher service costs.

The 2022-23 water year saw exceptional flooding and above-average rainfall across much of the Basin. 

The River Murray system recorded the largest water inflow in 127 years in November and December 2022, leading to a 10 per cent decrease in water delivered by irrigation infrastructure operators from 2021-22. 

In 2023, the Australian Government tendered to purchase 44.3 gigalitres per year for environmental uses, which the regulator says could increase transformation and termination volumes in 2023-24 and beyond.