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 two distinct but interdependent program streams: Rural Water Infrastructure and Sustainable Irrigation. These programs will continue to support modernised infrastructure, improved water efficiency, increased resilience to changes to water availability, and achieve our shared responsibility for environmental health across Victoria’s irrigation sector. Furthermore, it will support the decisions and viability of food producers and processors, who contribute significantly to the social fabric of regional communities.

DELWP, in conjunction with regional delivery partners (Catchment Management Authorities, Water Corporations and Agriculture Victoria), will 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.

EC5 Expenditure to date

Program Title (EC5)

2020-21 Expenditure $’000

Water wise rural communities


Summary of year 1 of EC5

Rural water infrastructure project oversight and governance

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.

The Rural Water Projects and Connections team of the Water and Catchments Group initiates and oversees rural water infrastructure projects while also securing 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 rural water infrastructure, ensuring rural communities are adequately prepared for drought and long-term water security. E.g. the Macalister Irrigation District (MID) Phase 2 Modernisation Project and Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) Connections Project
  • Improved rural water security in targeted areas: reduction in water losses and water returned to the environment through public investment demonstrate improvements in water efficiency.
  • Improved transparency and accountability of Government investment
Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • ensured contractual completion of multiple projects such as the South West Loddon Rural Pipeline, Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Project Phase 1B and Australia’s largest irrigation project, the $2 billion GMW Connections Project. These projects were delivered on time and budget, will generate water savings and improve water security for rural communities;
  • attracted new Commonwealth investment into Victoria towards seven priority water infrastructure projects. This includes the $177.5 million GMW Water Efficiency Project (WEP) to deliver further modernisation works in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District and recover 15.9 gigalitres of water savings;
  • submitted multiple funding bids to secure Commonwealth funding towards Victorian water infrastructure projects;
  • provided governance and oversight on key water infrastructure projects worth over $284 million, ensuring these projects are on time and budget. The key water infrastructure projects includes:
  • Macalister Irrigation District Phase 2 ($62.6 million),
  • Western Irrigation Network ($116.3 million)

Sustainable Irrigation Program (Water Wise Rural Communities) Implementation

For 30 years the Sustainable Irrigation Program (SIP) has worked to improve environmental and productivity outcomes for irrigated agriculture in Victoria, primarily focussed within major irrigation areas. This includes the 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, SIP will focus on increasing the adaptability of irrigation communities to reduced water availability and climate variability through providing information and support for planning, decision-making and practice change. This will 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 more variable.

Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:

Implementation of the sustainable irrigation stream of the Water Wise Rural Communities initiative has progressed through project development processes undertaken by DELWP, Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and other regional partners.

Under this initiative regional Land and Water Management Plans have continued to be implemented or updated, providing direction on regional responses to improve the sustainability of irrigated agriculture, including:

  • Mallee CMA’s renewed Land and Water Management Plan and updated Irrigation Development Guidelines endorsed by DELWP.
  • North Central CMA is working with partner organisations and community to develop a final draft of its Loddon Campaspe Irrigation Region Land and Water Management Plan (LWMP).
  • Goulburn Broken CMA notching up a 30-year milestone for implementation of its Shepparton Irrigation Region LWMP.
  • North East CMA and West Gippsland CMA continue to implement their respective plans with support provided to community including irrigation extension advice, and targeted incentive programs.

In basin salinity management, Victoria has continued implementation of the Basin Salinity Management 2030 (BSM2030) strategy, and ensuring compliance with the Murray Darling Basin agreement within this space. A comprehensive report on the salinity management actions undertaken is due 2021-22.

Development of Integrated Accountable Action Model (IAAM) has made significant progress during the last six months. This model will support the assessment of the Barr Creek and Tragowel Plains register entries.

The Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program Strategic Directions 2020-24 has been finalised and will guide actions to improve irrigation drainage management in Victoria. Funding approved during 2020-21 is targeted to priority engagement, design and agreements for works or reinstatement of natural drainage lines within the Shepparton Irrigation Region and nutrient management processes with the Macalister Irrigation District.

Rural Water Policy Implementation

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. 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. This will be achieved at both the local and regional levels and the broader state level outlined through the Sustainable Water Strategies (SWS).

Summary of progress in Year 1 of EC5:
  • Coordinated implementation of the Irrigators Share Distribution project, in partnership with Goulburn Murray Water and close consultation with the irrigation community.  This project is set to deliver 77 GL of water recovered under the Connections Project to delivery share holders in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District, in line with recommendations made by the Irrigators Share Consultative Committee.
  • Continued to work with the Commonwealth government and regional stakeholders on the management of socioeconomic impact of further water recovery under the Basin Plan on communities, including providing advice on Victorian government led projects and facilitating the community consultation process on proposals to bid for Commonwealth funding.
  • Progressed development of a new policy pathway for managing houseboat greywater discharge into Lake Eildon.  This included engagement with the houseboating community, undertaking social research, and reviewing water quality knowledge gaps – all part of building the evidence base upon which new regulatory and non-regulatory interventions can be informed.
  • Led application of the Solar Energy Guidelines and associated policy framework from a water portfolio perspective – to ensure alignment between  proposed large scale solar energy facilities and protection of agricultural infrastructure assets in declared irrigation districts.
  • Actively contributed to development of the Goulburn Murray Resilience Strategy and provided state government support for its regionally-led implementation, including through the Agricultural Redevelopment Coordinator project.
  • Formulated and facilitated agricultural water related policy responses and options to inform the Central and Gippsland SWS

Page last updated: 16/09/21