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This program has a strong history of reducing adverse impacts of irrigation on the environment and third parties, while improving water use efficiency and best practice land management for environmental and productive outcomes.

We administer the program and it is delivered in partnership with extension staff from Agriculture Victoria, Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) and rural water corporations.

Irrigated agriculture in Victoria accounts for 33% of the state’s agricultural output, contributing $4.9 billion to the economy in 2017–18 while using less than 4% of the state's agricultural land and just 2% of the state’s land area.

The intensive nature of irrigation has the potential to have significant impacts at the local and catchment scale if left unmanaged.

The program:

  • Develops and implements regional Land and Water Management Plans (LWMPs) in major irrigation regions to reduce the environmental and third-party impacts of irrigation and improve farm water use efficiency.
  • Ensures Victoria complies with salinity impact obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and the Basin Salinity Management 2030 strategy.
  • Guides new irrigation development to meet sustainability and best practice land management objectives.
  • Supports implementation of the Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program.

The Victorian Government is investing $50.1 million over 2020-2024 in the program. This is funded through the The fifth tranche of the Environmental Contribution.

We and our delivery partners will update regional Land and Water Management Plans across the state and implement priority activities identified in these plans. In doing so, they will continue to deliver on the overall Program goal of a productive, effective and sustainable irrigation industry supported by improved irrigation infrastructure.

Regulatory responsibilities

The program operates within Federal and State legislation, policies and strategies, as well as regional plans and strategies.

Schedule B of the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement aims to implement the BSM2030 strategy.

The Water Act 1989 and associated Ministerial Policies:

Basin salinity management

Salinity remains a significant management focus within the Murray-Darling Basin and poses ongoing environmental, social and economic risks. Find out more about basin salinity management.

View the salinity maps

Read the Ministerial determinations

Land and Water Management Plans

The Sustainable Irrigation Program prepares, oversees and implements Land and Water Management Plans in designated irrigation areas. These plans align with the catchment management authority’s (CMA) Regional Catchment Strategies.

Land and Water Management Plans (LWMP) provide a framework to improve the efficient use of water and protect the environment and third parties from off-site impacts of irrigation.

A regionally-specific and coordinated approach

Each plan provides a regionally-specific and coordinated approach to natural resource management in irrigation areas and guides government investment in improving sustainability outcomes for these areas.

Land and Water Management Plans are developed and implemented with strong community engagement and consultation. This ensures the plans have strong stakeholder support and are technically and economically sound.

Review of guidelines for the development of LWMP

DEECA is currently reviewing its Guidelines for developing LWMP in designated irrigation areas to provide contemporary directions to CMAs as they periodically review or renew their plans. This will ensure that regional plans and their actions are relevant to the region's current policy and environmental and economic conditions.

The following CMAs have prepared land and Water Management Plans for their irrigation areas:

Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program

The Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program (VIDP) seeks to mitigate the risk of salinity, waterlogging and water quality impacts to the environment by removing excess water from irrigated areas.

Irrigation drainage, (for example subsurface drains, primary and community surface water drains, tile drainage, groundwater pumping, Drainage Course Declarations (DCD) and on-farm drainage reuse) is a critical component of sustainable irrigation and delivers several environmental benefits.

Implementation of the VIDP is guided by the Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program Strategic Directions 2021-24.

Managing irrigation developments

New irrigation developments, or significant redevelopments, in Victoria, are managed through regional Irrigation Development Guidelines (IDGs).

IDGs guide irrigation developments in meeting best practice standards to avoid or minimise the off-site impacts of irrigation water use. IDGs require consideration of natural resource management issues in the catchment, particularly those issues identified in Regional Catchment Strategies, Land and Water Management Plans and other relevant plans.

IDGs provide guidance to both irrigators and government agencies on the process for approvals, matters for consideration and the conditions required for obtaining or modifying a water-use licence or take and use licence.

IDGs seek to:

  • Document the approval process for irrigation development applications.
  • Offer a cost-effective way to facilitate developments in a way that avoids or minimises environmental and third-party impacts.
  • Clarify the process for authorities to meet the water use objectives under the Water Act 1989 when approving Water Use Licenses.
  • Point to other environmental, planning and cultural heritage protection procedures and agencies, including Local Government.
  • Reduce the uncertainty for prospective developers by clarifying standards and expectations.

Advice on IDG that applies to specific regions can be accessed by contacting your local Catchment Management Authority.

On-farm irrigation efficiency

The Sustainable Irrigation Program undertakes a range of actions to improve on-farm water use. A number of activities are used to support improved irrigation water use efficiency, including:

  • Property planning (including grants for preparing or updating whole farm plans), and other decision support programs.
  • Provision of specialist independent advice to irrigators through the DJPR irrigation extension staff.
  • Grants to enable the adoption of improved farm irrigation infrastructure.
  • Leveraging of Commonwealth and other funding for on-farm upgrades where it is considered there will be a net public benefit.

Monitoring trends in land and water use in irrigation

We're working in partnership with Catchment Management Authorities and rural water corporations to monitor land and water use in irrigation areas. The Regional Irrigated Land and Water Use Mapping Program (RILWUM) program currently undertakes mapping in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID), the Mallee, Gippsland and south-western Victoria.

The mapping process involves remote and on-ground land use surveys in irrigation areas and the matching of water register data, to determine seasonal water use by water use licences and industry. This data is then used to produce spatial land use maps and analyse land and water use by industry type and water service area.

Find out more about the program.

Page last updated: 05/10/23