Free app shines a light on murky water market

Free app shines a light on murky water market

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Federal government splashes $6m on trading tool to increase market transparency for irrigators.

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The murky world of Murray Darling Basin water trading will become more transparent and user-friendly if a new market app lives up to expectations.

The federal government has invested $6 million into the Waterflow app, which was developed with grant funding by natural resource economics firm Marsden Jacob Associates.

The app is designed to provide accurate, real-time information to show irrigators which broker is selling what water products, and where, including historical trade data to help them get the best price.

Waterflow works for the Northern and Southern Basin in NSW, as well as all Victoria and South Australia.

The app delivers a catchment-by-catchment breakdown of how much water is available to purchase.

It incorporates inter-valley trade rules that enables irrigators to search across the entire market for all water that is available to bring in to where they need it.

There is a historical price register, as well as current buy-and-sell offers for a catchment. Not all brokers have signed up to display their prices on the app, but so far Key Water, H2OX, Waterpool, Elders and Wilkes Water have come on board.

Waterflow NSW Below Choke temporary trade report.

Waterflow NSW Below Choke temporary trade report.

Waterflow uses Bureau of Meteorology to display dam levels, as well how much announced allocation is on offer.

Allocation outlooks are also available to show irrigators the chances of getting access, depending on climate conditions.

"Knowledge is power and this puts it right in the hands of Basin communities," Mr Littleproud said.

"The tool will help communities understand exactly how much water is available for irrigators, communities and the environment."

One point of controversy in irrigation towns is negative perceptions of water brokers and their market impact.

While Waterflow provides information about how much water is held by irrigators, as well as state and federal water agencies, it won't detail private ownership, including brokers.

However, Minister Littleproud said he had commissioned the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to investigate the southern Basin water market in response to concerns of water users.

"One of the reasons I asked the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission to look at the market was to investigate the role of brokers in the marketplace and the regulatory framework around them, as well as water traders who don't own land," Mr Littleproud said.

Waterflow allocation outlook.

Waterflow allocation outlook.

"I expect the ACCC to come back with recommendations because that has been a real concern among irrigators."

Marsden Jacob director Rod Carr said Waterflow had been in development with grant funding for two years, but the project was actually closer to a decade in the making.

"It's going to show a great deal more information on inter-valley trades," Mr Carr said.

"That means where water is being traded from and to, and where there is connectivity, and that changes day-to-day. You will see where water moves from one point of the (river) system to another."

Marsden Jacob have committed to keep access to Waterflow free-of-charge.

The government invested $5m to collate and co-ordinate market and allocation data from various state and federal agencies, and Marsden Jacob received $1m to develop the app.

The web-based version of Waterflow is available now and the mobile app version will be available in coming weeks. For more information go to www.waterflow.io

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