A DECISION to hold an open cry auction for trading water in the heartland of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation District (MIA) seven years ago has paid dividends. However, like so many other sales in the rural sector, the annual water auction which is held in conjunction with the Riverina Field Days will move to an online platform. The Riverina Field Days are usually held in May, however, at this stage the event has been postponed until September due to coronavirus. But the water auction is going ahead with a new format. Water trading hasn't been immune to the coronavirus concerns and physical auctions still experience social distancing protocols. And with recent rain in the catchment it is difficult to predict what kind of prices the commodity will fetch. Water trader and principal of Wilks Water, Tom Wilks of Wagga said in past years the open-cry auction had been extremely successful. He said for purity and transparency the auction system was a great way to sell water and find an optimum value on the open market. Mr Wilks said traditionally auctions had worked in the agriculture industry with everything from machinery to livestock and wool being sold in this way. But this year, the water sale will have a different feel. Buyers are being encouraged to register online and the available lots are anticipated to be available from Friday this week. Bidding will close on May 20. Mr Wilks said it was challenging to gauge just what potential values the different categories of water would make during the upcoming auction. "With (recent) rain there has been a lot more interest in general security water because of the possibility of a bigger allocation in the coming season," he said. He anticipates that there will be interest in some of the offerings from the Lachlan river too. He said temporary water for this season would also be interesting to monitor. Despite recent discussion over the availability of rice from the Riverina he said the fact growers didn't already have a forward price meant it was difficult to predict how much water would be needed by this crop. It was a similar scenario from those who choose to grow cotton in southern NSW. Mr Wilks said ideally growers would look to pricing futures to weigh up whether or not to secure water for cotton. "It is difficult to know how what will happen at this stage ... coronavirus certainly puts an element of uncertainty into the market," he said. It was anticipated that 15,000 to 20,000 megalitres would go under the hammer during the online sale. The auction last year attracted 45,000 megalitres.