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The Influence of Privatisation on Irrigation Water Rights in NSW

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Taylor, Paul; McGlynn, Tony; Martin, Warren
Conference: Tradition and Globalisation: Critical Issues for the Accommodation of CPRs in the Pacific Region, the Inaugural Pacific Regional Meeting of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Conf. Date: September 2-4, 2001
Date: 2001
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/922
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Pacific and Australia
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources
water resources
property rights
Abstract: "Two important drivers for the redefinition of water rights in Australia since 1980 have been, firstly, the development of public policy for both environment/ sustainability and for water rights security, and secondly, the commercialisation, corporatisation and privatisation of institutions in the water sector. The reasons for embarking on privatisation are discussed, and the relationship of water rights to the operation and management of irrigation schemes explained. "Water rights for irrigators in publicly-owned and managed irrigation schemes in NSW before and after privatisation are compared. The altered relationships between water user, manager of the scheme and the government are explained. The paper details the process by which changes were negotiated and introduced, and identifies policy decisions and factors considered in the redefinition of water rights at two levels: the bulk water supply to irrigation schemes and the distribution of water within schemes to the irrigator?s land. "Changes to water rights required consultation and the agreement of the rights holders. However, holders perceived themselves to hold rights in a form which differed from the legal definition. Both administrative decisions and the operation of water supply played an important role in defining the water received by rights holders. These arrangements, largely undefined to the water user, were considered adequate during a period when government policy favoured the development of water resources and water management policy change was relatively slow. However, with the changes in policy direction of the 1990s, water users began to seek actively new guarantees of continuing water supply. "Privatisation forced the government and water users to consider in a new light the separate but intimately linked aspects of water supply services, the right to take or receive water and the use of the water. The post-privatisation regime clarified these elements as well as altering the relationship of water rights holders to the government and irrigation scheme operators. The ultimate shift in location of power and decision-making is evaluated and discussed in the context of broader water management changes being made in Australia. "The paper concludes that privatisation resulted in a closer specification of some elements of water rights, and a greater distinction between water supply and water rights management functions of the government. The process of privatisation may also have affected the attitudes of irrigators towards general water rights reform, by increasing their awareness of legal issues and focussing their thinking on uncertainties which could result from policy change."

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