The New South Wales (NSW) Government recently requested Aither to review Commonwealth provisions requiring further water recovery under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (above the 2750 GL of water to be recovered by 2019) to be socio-economically neutral in its impacts. This requirement specifically relates to the 450 GL of 'upwater' intended to be recovered by 2024 through on-farm water efficiency measures.

Aither found that the current provisions in the Basin Plan - voluntary individual irrigator participation equals socio-economic neutrality - do not meet the overarching intent of the Basin Plan to consider the socio-economic impacts of ‘upwater’ programs.

Aither recommended that the NSW Government advocate for an independent Cost Benefit Analysis of the 'upwater' program and a revised Basin-wide definition of socio-economic neutrality.

The revised definition should account for impacts on people not directly participating in the program, aggregate and cumulative impacts, and distributional impacts.

Aither's report for the NSW Department of Primary Industries was released on 14 March 2017 and is available on the Aither website.

In his media release announcing the report's publication, NSW Minister for Regional Water Niall Blair said, 'We need a better understanding of what these efficiency measures mean for our irrigation sector, particularly the irrigation corporations, and total employment and economic activity in the local town'.