First our land, now our WATER: How China is the biggest buyer of Australia's most precious resource
This is a totally crap scare. The Chinese are NOT picking the water up and taking it to China. All the water concerned is used in Australia on Australian crops. The scare is being generated out of the fact that Chinese investors now own some Australian farms and some of those farms have water rights
It is in fact mainly about Cubbie Station, Australia's massive cotton grower, which is hugely beneficial to Australian trade. The drought at one stage sent it broke and it was partly Chinese money that rescued it
Australia's water market should be more closely monitored after it emerged China is the largest foreign stakeholder, experts say.
The Federal Government in March revealed that 10.4 per cent of Australian water rights are owned by foreign individuals or companies.
Chinese investors own 732 gigalitres or 1.89 per cent of the water on the market - an amount more than Sydney Harbour which holds 500 gigalitres.
In close second, Americans own 720 gigalitres (1.86 per cent) while British buyers own 414 gigalitres or 1.1 per cent.
A string of investors from countries including Canada, France and Singapore own 0.5 per cent or less.
The figures were revealed in a new ATO register of foreign ownership which was set up to monitor who owns Australia's most precious natural resource.
But as China flexes its muscles on the global stage and seeks strategic influence across the world, experts say we must keep a close watch.
'A total of 10.4 per cent of our water being owned by foreigners is a significant amount,' Professor Quentin Grafton of the Australian National University told Daily Mail Australia. 'As such, it is important that Australians know who is using our water - it's a public resource and it's critically important to the country.
How does the water market work?
Government appointed bodies decide how much water from rivers can be given out each year. Once it is allocated, users can trade their water. There are two main types of water trade: temporary and permanent.
A temporary transfer is a transfer of water specifically for the irrigation season.
If one farmer does not have enough water for his crops, he can buy water from another.
A permanent transfer is the transfer of the water entitlement. The purchaser buys rights to a yearly allocation of water from a river and receives the allocation until they sell.
The Australian water market is not national but split into different sections within each state. The largest market is the Murray-Darling Basin in the south east.
Professor Grafton said foreign ownership of Australian water is not necessarily problematic.
'Investors are not allowed to export the water so it has to be used in Australia,' he said.
Asked if too much foreign ownership of water could be a problem, Professor Grafton said: 'We'll have to wait and see.'
But federal Agriculture Minister David Littleproud said there was nothing to worry about.
'At the moment, there's a small percentage of water owned by foreign interests and much of that is by one property - Cubbie Station,' he said.
The Cubbie Station is a massive Queensland cotton farm largely owned by a Chinese textiles company.
The station's water storage dams stretch for more than 28 kilometres along the Culgoa River in the Murray-Darling basin - and the station can use up to 500,000 megalitres per year.