David Johnston standing next to a new water meter at his Wee Waa business, CrockWeld.

David Johnston installs and validates water meters as part of his job, so it’s only natural to assume that he should be happy with a December 1, water-meter compliance deadline for irrigators who could potentially generate income for his business.

But Mr Johnston isn’t happy.

“I want to be here for the long-term and I don’t want to send farmers broke,” said Mr Johnston.

“I am here to provide a service for the farmers and part of that service is giving them what they need at a sustainable rate, I want to get that return phone call.

“Initially I thought this (the compliance deadline) would create work during the drought but I have a number of problems with it – it’s expensive, there’s not a lot of leeway and there’s a lot of unanswered questions.”

Representatives from the Natural Resources Access Regulator and NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment recently held a robust meeting with irrigators, in Narrabri, about proposed amendments to water metering regulation in NSW that would impact Namoi Valley irrigators.

The Courier reported on the meeting at the time and explained that irrigators were very much in favour of accurate metering but raised grave concerns about their ability to meet a December 1 compliance deadline due to circumstances out of their control.

Under the new framework, surface water users in the Namoi Valley with 500mm pipes and larger are required to have their meters validated by December 1, 2019 but with no water available and no rain in sight to test the validity of meters, it’s a very difficult task for irrigators to achieve.

“Compliance is impossible to reach without water,” Narrabri farmer Matt Norrie said after the July meeting.