The Government is buying almost 240 gigalitres of water entitlements for $303 million from Twynam Agricultural Group.
That is equivalent to one half of all of the water used in Sydney each year.
The water purchased today will be used to restore the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin to health, with the water used exclusively for environmental flows.
This brings the total amount of water purchased by the Rudd Government to 297 gigalitres of water entitlements. The previous Government failed to directly purchase a single litre of water for the environment during its 12 years in office.
Historical over-allocation and climate change are having a devastating impact on the Murray-Darling Basin's unique environmental assets, and this purchase represents a major advance in tackling this challenge.
A crucial aspect of the Government's accelerated water purchase program is to smooth the transition to new, lower limits on water use that will start to take effect with the new Basin Plan.
If we don't start to make this adjustment now, irrigators and the communities who depend on them face a far tougher and more abrupt cut in the future.
The Twynam Agricultural Group currently operates farming properties in NSW with a total land area of approximately 285,000 hectares located on the Murrumbidgee, Lachlan, Macquarie and Gwydir River systems. Twynam's rural enterprises include cattle and sheep production, dryland and irrigated cropping and horticulture.
The family company has been realigning its agricultural enterprises over the past four years to diversify its Australian business operations. As a consequence of the drought, Twynam has been progressively changing its production mix from summer irrigated crops to winter dryland cereals. The water sale will help to progress the business transition.
Twynam will maintain its involvement in agriculture, with on-going farming enterprises, and we are advised by Twynam that the sale of the water is not expected to have any significant impact on the number of full-time and part-time employees.
Irrigated agriculture in the Murray-Darling Basin will benefit from the Government's unprecedented commitment to invest in improved water use efficiency and productivity in irrigation communities.
These major investments in irrigation efficiency will also provide a welcome boost to the economic and employment outlook for these irrigation communities as projects get underway.
The Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder will manage the water entitlements purchased from Twynam and will determine where allocations will be used, drawing on the best available scientific advice and collaborative input from Basin States. The water entitlements will be exclusively used for environmental flows.
A number of high-value aquatic ecosystems can be expected to specifically benefit from the water entitlements purchased from Twynam, for example, the Macquarie Marshes, Fivebough and Tuckerbil Swamps in the Murrumbidgee, the Gwydir Wetlands, the Booligal Wetlands in the Lachlan, and Menindee Lakes in the Darling.