Sustainable Irrigation Future Initiative

This initiative is informing and supporting Victoria’s sustainable irrigation industry, delivering actions under Chapter 4 of Water for Victoria. It will help improve water use efficiency, manage and reduce adverse impacts of irrigation, facilitate appropriate irrigation development and support irrigation modernisation projects. The initiative is delivered by the teams within the Statewide Infrastructure and Rural Strategies Division of DELWP in partnership with regional agencies.

EC4 Expenditure to date

Sustainable Irrigation Future Initiative $14,364,250 $15,780,745 $14,840,000 $14,565,000


The Sustainable Irrigation Program supports the regional Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs) to deliver SIP regionally by implementing Land and Water Management Plans (LWMP). LWMPS are community led planning and implementation strategies that are developed through a collaborative effort between DELWP, the CMAS and Agriculture Victoria to identify and manage natural resource management issues in Victoria’s designated irrigation areas. Each LWMP sits under an overarching Regional Catchment Strategy to provide a coordinated approach to managing the impacts of irrigation from a catchment to property scale.

In February 2019, West Gippsland CMA launched the Lake Wellington LWMP. The plan outlines a vision for how irrigators, industry and government will work together over the next 10 years to achieve a highly productive and sustainable irrigation community that values and protects its natural and cultural assets. An Irrigator Reference Group, consisting of thirteen local irrigators, has been established to advise on the implementation of the new plan.

Following a period of extensive consultation with irrigators and the community, the North East CMA finalised its North East Victoria Sustainable Irrigation LWMP 2019-2024 in 2019. Mallee CMA and North Central CMA have drafted new LWMPs which will be submitted to DELWP for final endorsement. It is expected that Goulburn Broken CMA will renew its plan in 2021.

Delivery Share arrangements in northern Victoria were reviewed and a number of actions identified through this are currently being implemented by DELWP in partnership with Rural Water Corporations.

The Victorian Government is continuing to support irrigators in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District as the benefits of the Connections project continue to be realised and the irrigator’s share of the project water savings are set to become available.

More information about the distribution Irrigators’ Share Distribution can be found on:

Incentives for improved irrigation practices

Between 2016-2020 SIP provided $19.4 million in funding towards improving on-farm water use efficiency, encouraging best practice irrigation infrastructure and reducing environmental impacts of irrigation across the state’s irrigation regions.

Incentives have primarily focused on farm planning, on-farm system checks and infrastructure upgrades. Farm Plans support food production, regional water use efficiency, and ensure farm drainage disposal is managed correctly. They also put in place protection for remnant vegetation and cultural heritage. Since 2016, the initiative has provided 276 grants for whole farm plans and incentives for upgrades to irrigation infrastructure such as soil moisture monitoring, flood to spray conversions and other best-practice infrastructure upgrades servicing 2073 ha. Technical support has also been provided through regionally based irrigation extension officers.

In response to ongoing dry conditions, Goulburn Broken CMA is rolling out a pilot project to provide incentives for soil moisture monitoring equipment to irrigators with pressurised systems. Soil moisture monitoring is a low-cost method to improve existing infrastructure and allow irrigators to become more water efficient.

Additional funds for incentives were also provided to West Gippsland CMA to support drought relief in the region. This enabled drought affected irrigators to improve their on-farm water use efficiency.

Regulations and standards

CMAs work in partnership with DELWP to mitigate and manage salinity impacts to the Murray River to meet Victoria’s obligations under the Murray-Darling Basin Agreement and the BSM2030 strategy. Targeted monitoring of groundwater and surface water sites and research has been undertaken to improve understanding of salinity processes (for example resulting in the removal of the 50 cents per megalitre salinity levy in the Mallee). Through salinity management activities, Victoria has continued to achieve 100 per cent compliance for salinity under various Murray-Darling Basin agreements.

The Sustainable Irrigation Program is improving the management of irrigation development in Victoria. Irrigation developments and re-developments continued to trigger referral to the Irrigation Development Guidelines (IDG) process. Irrigators and developers continued to receive clear and accurate guidance about standards and expectations of new irrigation developments and re-developments. During 2016-2020 the program responded and provided guidance on 226 referrals.

CMAs are reviewing and updating the Mallee, Gippsland and Northern Victorian IDGs, ensuring they are contemporary to emerging risks and knowledge. DELWP reviewed and updated the Victorian Advisory Note on the Preparation of IDGs to guide the regional IDG updates.

Solar Guidelines were developed and finalised in September 2019 to assist with managing the development of renewable energy facilities in declared irrigation districts. DELWP is now a referral authority for permit applications.

Education and training

Agriculture Victoria irrigation extension services (Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions) have been delivered to farming communities across the irrigation districts to improve economic, social and environmental outcomes through improved farming methods and techniques to improve water use efficiency and productive yield. 4761 irrigators have received tailored advice and support from Agriculture Victoria irrigation extension officers and 6162 irrigators have participated in engagement events such as workshops, field days and discussion groups officers on topics such as water use efficiency, environmental protection and irrigation development and design. These activities are designed to give irrigators the tools and information make informed decisions in the short and long term. Independent extension services provide irrigators with the confidence to invest in on-farm infrastructure and practice changes that have long term benefits to water use efficiency and the management of environmental impacts

Research and monitoring

Irrigation in Victoria is undergoing significant change as it adapts to greater climate variability. With the support of SIP, Agriculture Victoria Research has developed datasets, tools and analytical approaches that provide a range of important services to SIP and the broader irrigation industry to support on-farm irrigation water management.

A number of important research projects were funded to improve understanding of trends in irrigation which impact design and delivery of the initiative and to understand the impact and outcomes of the investment:

  • Regional Irrigated Land and Water Use Mapping Program – This project aims to capture land and water use data in key irrigation areas across Victoria including the GMID and Lake Wellington catchment.
  • Water Use Efficiency Benchmarking in the GMID – Agriculture Victoria captured and evaluated water use efficiency on properties and farm irrigation performance of the GMID against optimal water use efficiency benchmarks calculated from trials in previous years.

The results of this work improve understanding of shifting water demands and land use change which builds understanding of how irrigation regions are changing and adapting to reduced water availability and informs water, agriculture and planning policy.

Drainage infrastructure development and operations

$14.9 million was allocated for priority irrigation drainage management programs in the GMID to be delivered by CMAs and Goulburn Murray Water (GMW). This funding reflected the ongoing community demand for drainage and the need for improved infrastructure in priority areas to manage the impacts of salinity and high water tables.

Hybrid drainage systems, including drainage course declarations (DCDs), have been the focus over 2016-2020. Hybrid drainage is more cost effective and improves environmental protection and enhancement of natural assets, including terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, by reconnecting natural drainage lines through removal of man-made obstructions. GMW received approval to declare drainage courses in the Upper Deakin, Cornella Creek and Guilfus-Congupna catchments. These DCDs will protect a combined 15,400 hectares from the impacts of high water tables. Thorough consultation conducted by GMW has shown there is substantial community support for this approach.

GMW and Goulburn Broken CMA completed construction on the Muckatah 2/3 Community Surface Water Management System (SWMS) which marks the end of over 12 years of hard work and dedication by local landowners and agency staff. The constructed drain is 4.12 km in length and provides drainage outfall to approximately 547 ha of highly productive irrigated land. The Mosquito Drain 40 Primary SWMS saw the final 1.96km of a significant section of Mosquito systems completed, recognised with a community celebration of the many decades of community and agency partnership.

Page last updated: 20/06/22