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This initiative seeks to protect the environment and adapt to the impacts of climate change, while promoting productive and sustainable agriculture that is supported by modern infrastructure and policy through 2 distinct but interdependent program streams: Rural Water Infrastructure and Sustainable Irrigation.

These programs continue to support:

  • modernised infrastructure
  • improved water efficiency
  • increased resilience to changes to water availability
  • achieving our shared responsibility for environmental health across Victoria’s irrigation sector.

Furthermore, it supports the decisions and viability of food producers and processors, who contribute significantly to the social fabric of regional communities.

The department, in conjunction with regional delivery partners (catchment management authorities – CMAs, water corporations, local government and Agriculture Victoria), support the future of irrigation with improvements to physical assets (both on- and off-farm), changes to farm systems, making information available and accessible, and leading institutional approaches following a significant period of modernisation across the sector.

Environmental contribution 5 (EC5)

Program title 2020-21 expenditure ($'000) 2021–22
expenditure ($'000)
expenditure ($'000)

Water wise rural communities


Summary of EC5 progress – end of year three

Victoria’s irrigation sector is facing unprecedented challenges driven by socio-economic, climatic and environmental pressures, including declines in water availability, changes in global commodity markets and the rationalisation and modernisation of delivery infrastructure in irrigation areas.

Initiating and overseeing rural water infrastructure projects

The Rural Water Projects team of the Water and Catchments Group initiates and provides oversight and governance of rural water infrastructure projects with investment by State and Commonwealth Governments. The team also secures funding for future rural water infrastructure investment, in response to community expectations for government to address future water reliability and access.

The Rural Water Project (RWP) team’s objectives are:

  • Targeted and efficient investment in water infrastructure, supporting rural, regional and peri-urban communities to be adequately prepared to meet the challenges of drought and climate change.
  • Improved rural water security in targeted areas, through governance and support for a range of projects focused on improving water security, boosting productivity, supporting emergency preparedness, and providing significant regional community benefits, including broader benefits for the environment.
  • Improved transparency and accountability of Government investment in rural water infrastructure projects.

Projects Complete

Over the course of EC5, multiple projects have reached practical and contractual completion, including:

  • GMW Connections Project ($2 billion)
  • South West Loddon Rural Pipeline ($82 million)
  • Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Project Phase 1B ($65.40 million)
  • Mitiamo Pipeline Project ($29 million)
  • Werribee Irrigation District Modernisation Project (Stages 1-3) ($19.98 million)
  • Bacchus Marsh Irrigation District Modernisation Project (Stages 1-4) ($9.90 million)

These projects were delivered on time and budget and will generate water savings and improve water security for rural communities.

New Investment into Water Infrastructure Projects

Over the course of EC5, Victoria has secured Australian Government co-investment into a number of new multi-year projects which include both capital infrastructure and business cases. These projects include:

  • Water Quality for Wannon ($52.2 million)
  • Victorian Connections Funding Pathway Package, which includes 9 projects ($46.3 million)
  • Werribee Irrigation District Modernisation (Stages 4-5) ($22 million)Recycled Water on the Bellarine ($13.9 million)
  • Coliban Regional Rural Modernisation Detailed Business Case ($5.7 million)
  • 6 Business Cases ($5.42 million)

In addition, Victoria has attracted new Australian Government investment into projects through the Commonwealth Off-Farm Efficiency Program, including:

  • GMW Water Efficiency Project ($177.5 million)
  • Lower Murray Water – Sunraysia Water Efficiency Project ($37.9 million)

Both projects will recover water for the environment under Murray Darling Basin Plan targets.

Governance and oversight of water infrastructure projects

The Rural Water Projects team currently oversees approximately $650 million of water infrastructure projects across Victoria (including feasibility, business cases and capital projects), providing governance and oversight through the management of contracts with Rural Water Corporations and bilateral project schedules with the Australian Government. The department is also a member of quarterly project oversight groups and provides State oversight of the progress of projects against milestones.

These water infrastructure projects include:

  • GMW Water Efficiency Project ($177.5 million)
  • Western Irrigation Network ($116.3 million)
  • East Grampians Rural Water Supply Project ($85.2 million)
  • Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Phase 2 Project ($62.6 million)
  • Water Quality for Wannon ($52.2 million)
  • Victorian Connections Funding Pathway Package (9 Projects) ($46.3 million)
  • Lower Murray Water – Sunraysia Water Efficiency Project ($37.9 million)
  • Werribee Irrigation District Modernisation Project (Stages 4&5) ($22 million)
  • Lindenow Valley Water Security Scheme ($20 million)
  • Recycled Water on the Bellarine ($13.9 million)
  • Coliban Regional Rural Modernisation Detailed Business Case ($5.7 million)
  • Macalister Fresh ($0.6 million)

Sustainable Irrigation Program (Water Wise Rural Communities) implementation

Irrigated agriculture is one of the largest industries in Victoria, supporting the economy and our rural communities.

For over 30 years, the Sustainable Irrigation Program (SIP) has worked to improve water-efficiency in the Victorian irrigated agriculture sector and to mitigate the impact of irrigation practices on the environment, primarily focusing within major irrigation areas. This includes:

  • Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID)
  • Victorian Mallee region
  • the Macalister Irrigation District (MID)
  • and more recently, in the North East and South West of Victoria.

Throughout 2020-2024, Sustainable Irrigation Program (SIP) is focused on increasing the adaptability of irrigation communities to reduced water availability and climate variability by providing information and support for planning, decision-making and practice change.

This aims to support the increased resilience of regional communities and improve environmental outcomes in irrigation areas. More efficient use of water in agriculture is a key part of growing the resilience and adaptability of the irrigation sector as the climate becomes increasingly variable.

Sustainable Irrigation Stream

Implementation of the sustainable irrigation stream of the Water Wise Rural Communities initiative has progressed through project development processes undertaken by the department (including Agriculture Victoria), CMAs and other regional partners.

Under this initiative, a series of activities have been delivered to improve the sustainability of irrigated agriculture. This includes:

  • Mallee CMA’s renewed Land and Water Management Plan (LWMP) and updated Irrigation Development Guidelines endorsed by the department in September 2021.
  • North Central CMA has finalised the Loddon Campaspe Irrigation Region LWMP, launched in November 2021 by the then Parliamentary Secretary for Water.
  • Goulburn Broken CMA celebrated the 30-year milestone for implementing its Shepparton Irrigation Region LWMP in December 2021. Reviewing and renewing the plan to ensure it is contemporary to the issues in the Goulburn Murray Water area started in earnest in 2022.
  • Endorsement of the Northern Victorian Irrigation Development Guidelines covering the Goulburn Murray Water Region by the department in September 2021. Updated irrigation development guidelines have also now been completed in West Gippsland and the North East.
  • North East CMA and West Gippsland CMA continue to implement their respective LWMPs with support provided to the community, including irrigation extension advice and targeted incentive programs.
  • The delivery of a range of incentive programs and extension support.
  • Publishing information on land and water use trends in irrigation regions across the state through the Regional Irrigated Land and Water Use Mapping (RILWUM) program to support policy development and decision-making.

Basin Salinity Management 2030 (BSM2030) strategy

Victoria has continued implementing the Basin Salinity Management 2030 (BSM2030) strategy and ensuring Victoria’s compliance with the Murray Darling Basin Agreement. In partnership with other jurisdictions, Victoria has achieved 13 consecutive years of compliance.

Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program Strategic Directions 2020-24

The Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program Strategic Directions 2020-24 were finalised and are guiding actions to improve irrigation drainage management in Victoria. Funding approved during 2020-23 has targeted engagement, design, and agreements for works such as the reinstatement of natural drainage lines within the Shepparton Irrigation Region and nutrient management processes with the Macalister Irrigation District.

Rural Water Policy implementation project

The key objectives and outcomes for the Rural Water Policy Implementation project is to increase the responsiveness and uptake of rural water policy across the irrigation sector.

The responsive policy will support a vibrant, productive and sustainable irrigation sector in Victoria, both on and off farm supporting wise water use, resilience to climate change and by managing the impacts of irrigated agriculture on behalf of the State.

Activities delivered include:

  • Distribution of the irrigators share – this project delivered 77.68 GL of water recovered under the Connections Project to eligible delivery shareholders in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, in close collaboration with Goulburn Murray Water and irrigation stakeholders.
  • Policy input to Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy (CGRSWS) – Formulated and facilitated the development of agricultural water-related policy responses and actions which for inclusion in the CGRSWS.
  • Managing socioeconomic impacts of water recovery – continued to work with the Commonwealth government and regional stakeholders on the understanding and management of socioeconomic impacts of further water recovery under the Basin Plan on communities.
  • Supported Resilience Taskforce – actively contributed to the development of the Goulburn Murray Resilience Strategy and in the regional Taskforce overseeing implementation. Provided state government support for implementation, including through the Agricultural Redevelopment Coordinator project.

Page last updated: 15/11/23