Farmers believe they have been wrongly charged for water stored in their dams.
FLEURIEU Peninsula farmers have been hit with their first bills for water stored in their dams and believe they are being wrongfully charged for water for stock and household use.
The bills, issued by the Western Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Management Board this week, range from $37 to $5000 depending on the storage capacity and water use on properties.
A growing group of outraged Fleurieu farmers has called for others to ignore the bills in protest against the move they say they were guaranteed would not happen.
The Department of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources has warned debt collectors would be sent if the bills were not paid within 90 days.
Back Valley dairy farmer Wayne Kirk said when the NRM board pushed for farm dams to be metered in 2011, farmers were told they would never be charged for stock water or household water.
In the first round of bills, farms with no irrigation or water use outside of stock and households, have been hit with water levy bills.
“This is the first time they have sent the levy out in this region,’’ Mr Kirk said.
“They have done it in other regions around the state and I think the Eyre Peninsula also is facing it now. We already pay a NRM levy which this financial year will raise $27.5 million … these bills are on top of that and for what?’’
Mr Kirk said there was a degree of acceptance of charges for using groundwater where farmers used bores for irrigation, but drawing from dams for stock and household water should not be billed.
“There’s some people out there who are going to get really big bills because they have quite a lot of storage. But they’re not using that water, they’re not stealing it, it is in the system,’’ Mr Kirk said.
“The NRM’s argument is that they are controlling water use. They know how big our dams are and how much water we use. If a farmer was to do the wrong thing then they can act.’’
A Department of Environment, Wildlife and Natural Resources spokesman confirmed invoices had been sent out to water licence holders across the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges region, including the Western Mount Lofty Ranges.
“Water licence holders in the Barossa, McLaren Vale and Northern Adelaide Plains have been contributing to a water levy since the late 1990s/early 2000,’’ the spokesman said.
“Licence holders in the WMLR are now also contributing to the Water levy. This ensures equity with other licence holders In the AMLR region.
“There is no levy charged for water which is used for stock and domestic purposes.’’
The billing of farm general water licence holders in the Western Mount Lofty Ranges will generate approximately $696,000 and $1,200,000 from SA Water.
“These funds are used by the Board to support water management and planning,’’ the spokesman said.
“The board is responsible under the natural resources management act for ensuring the long term sustainable use of the region’s water resources. The board implements the act through the development and review of water allocation plans and monitoring of the resource.’’