THE first round of cheap water for southern Murray-Darling Basin irrigators will be totally delivered by the end of the month, the federal government says.
However, some of the 800 successful applicants say the heavily discounted water from the Water For Fodder program has come too late for a summer crop.
So far, 26 of the promised 40 gigalitres has been delivered, with another 7.6GL "in the final stages of being processed".
"In all, this accounts for 84 per cent of conditionally accepted applications - 33,700 megalitres in total," a Department of Agriculture spokesperson said.
The department is helping the remaining 16 per cent (126 applicants), who either had an error in their paperwork or were on the reserve list and got a late offer.
"The department is aiming to have all trades completed by the end of March," the spokesperson said.
- Govt illegally changed modelling to justify Yanco Creek project
- Federal Nationals slap down NSW Nats MDBP royal commission call
Some farmers have criticised the time taken to deliver the water, however the Department of Agriculture pointed to the late announcement of the program and the extensive paperwork process as causes for the delay.
"Unfortunately, it was simply not possible to provide the water earlier for this first round," the spokesperson said.
"The program was first announced in November 2019, with the program up and running by early December 2019. Successful applicants were notified in mid-December and given until early February to complete their paperwork.
"Water trades, in all circumstances, require trade forms to be accurately completed and lodged with the relevant water authorities before the water is available for use."
The Department said successful applicants could use the water until the end of the water year, June 30, "to give farmers flexibility".
Possible administration improvements will be considered in review of the rollout, which will take place before the remaining 60GL available in the 2020-21 water year.
The review will also focus on the appropriateness of the current eligibility requirements and if there is sufficient water availability in the southern-connected Basin to deliver the promised amount.
Many farmers have asked whether successful applicants from the first round will be able to apply for the second round, however the question will remain unanswered until after the review.
"A decision on this matter has not yet been made," a Department of Agriculture spokesperson said.
"The review of the program will make recommendations on the eligibility for Round 2, and a decision on this is a matter for government."