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New South Wales to Cap Murray-Darling Water License Purchases

New South Wales, Australia’s biggest cotton grower, will cap the amount of water the federal government can buy under the nation’s Murray-Darling Basin plan that was signed into law two months ago.

Water purchases will be restricted to 3 percent per valley each decade, Katrina Hodgkinson, the state’s minister for primary industries, said in a statement today. Once the limit has been reached in a valley, no more purchases for environmental purposes will be approved and processed by the state, she said.

Australia signed the plan into law in November, aiming to restore the health of the system where some river beds run dry in years of drought and ensure sustainable food production. The Murray-Darling Basin, which extends from southern Queensland to South Australia, covers 14 percent of Australia’s land and produces more than one-third of the nation’s food including wheat and dairy.

The federal government “has ignored the very real concerns of New South Wales Basin communities about the potential size and pace of an environmental water buyback program,” the statement said. The 3 percent limit is “a more sustainable rate of purchase which will provide much needed breathing space and time for rural economies to adjust,” it said.

Water storages in the Murray-Darling Basin were 80 percent full as of Jan. 10, data on the basin management authority’s website showed.

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