Victorian agriculture makes a significant contribution to Australia’s economy. Irrigated agriculture in Victoria was worth $4.9 billion in 2014-15 (ABS 2016), 33% of Australia's total irrigated agricultural production.

Irrigation commenced in Victoria in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and, due to this, much of the original infrastructure is now out dated and unable to cope with the demands of modern irrigation. As thousands of kilometres of channels and pipelines are used to provide water to Victoria’s agriculture industries, this is an important investment for our future.

In response, Victoria is investing $2.4 billion in water infrastructure projects to modernise irrigation systems and expand the water grid to increase water security for rural communities. This investment is made up of contributions from the Victorian Government, Commonwealth Government and Water Corporations.

Modernising irrigation systems

Victoria has a number of projects that aim to improve the delivery of water. These processes involve upgrading or evolving components specific to each project, while ensuring the impact to the environment and economy are minimised.

Modernising irrigation systems may involve:

  • Automating and upgrading channels to reduce the need to operate the system manually, while measuring water flows accurately and in real-time;
  • Removing redundant channels;
  • Replacing open channels with pipelines to minimise water losses;
  • Upgrading the accuracy of metered outlets that deliver water to farms; and
  • Lining and remodelling channels to minimise water lost during transport.

These works, in combination with changes to the way systems operate, will improve service levels to irrigators and save billions of litres of water.

There are a number of modernisation projects currently underway that aim to bring existing irrigation systems to current standards.

The Connections Project is creating a world-leading water delivery system in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District, and is the nation’s largest water recovery project. The Victorian and Federal Governments are investing over $2 billion in upgrading the irrigation delivery system to recover 429 gigalitres of water to benefit irrigators and the environment.

When completed, all water users in the region will benefit from a world-class automated water delivery system that will drive improved productivity, provide greater security for irrigators and produce real water savings.

The project is a key part of Victoria’s contribution to implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in a way that minimises any socio-economic impacts.

For more information visit the Goulburn-Murray Water Connections Project

The Victorian Farm Modernisation Project is a Commonwealth government funded project, which has been delivering up to $100 million in funds since 2013, enabling irrigators to adopt improved farm water delivery technology.

The $120 million Sunraysia Modernisation Project has created a more efficient irrigation network across the Mildura, Merbein and Red Cliffs districts. The project has:

  • Upgraded key pump stations across the three districts;
  • Replaced approximately 24 kilometres of open channels with pipeline; and
  • Installed channel automation in the remaining 20 kilometres of open channels, including 19 regulating structures.

The Commonwealth Government contributed $103 million towards the Sunraysia Modernisation Project, which was delivered by Lower Murray Water. The Sunraysia Modernisation Project was officially opened by the Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister the Hon. Luke Hartsuyker MP on 21 September 2016.

Benefits of the project include:

  • 365 day access to irrigation water via the water ordering system for over 2,000 customers, providing greater reliability and water availability;
  • Improved water quality leading to reduce on-farm filtration costs;
  • Greater operational flexibility to improve service delivery to irrigation customers; and
  • Seven gigalitres in water savings transferred to the environment to bridge the gap under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

For more information visit the Sunraysia Modernisation Project

The Werribee Irrigation District is one of Victoria’s biggest producers of leafy vegetables such as broccoli, lettuce and cauliflower. Climate change has seen water security in the region decline over recent decades, negatively impacting productivity within the district as well as the health of the Werribee River. Significant losses through evaporation and seepage also contribute to water security issues, as water is transported to irrigators through (approximately) 50 kilometres of old, earthen channels.

In April 2016, the Victorian Government committed to fund one-third of the total $31.3 million required to modernise the infrastructure. The project includes:

  • Replacing approximately 39 kilometres of open channels with automated pipeline; and
  • Rationalising and automating outlets.

For more information visit the Werribee Irrigation District Modernisation Project

The Bacchus Marsh Irrigation District is a significant producer of stone and pome fruit, leafy vegetables and turf. Climate change has seen water security in the region decline over recent decades, negatively impacting productivity within the district as well as the health of the Werribee River. Significant losses through evaporation and seepage also contribute to water security issues as water is transported to irrigators through old earthen channels. Rapid population growth at Bacchus Marsh has increased transport pressures and traffic congestion within the township, which has been exacerbated by the main water channel running through the town centre.

In April 2016, the Victorian Government committed to fund one-third of the total $12.4 million required to modernise the infrastructure. The project will reconfigure the Bacchus Marsh Irrigation District including a tank and pipeline upgrades to replace and decommission existing channels.

For more information visit the Bacchus Marsh Irrigation District Modernisation Project

Phase 1A

Southern Rural Water's (SRW) Macalister Irrigation District (MID) irrigation infrastructure is in moderately poor-to-fair condition and mostly behind industry best practice. SRW requires significant capital investments to upgrade its supply infrastructure.

In April 2013, the Macalister Irrigation District 2030 (MID2030) Phase 1A Project proposal for $32 million (an equal co-funding investment with SRW) was developed and approved for funding from the Environmental Contribution Levy. The project is:

  • Increasing water efficiency and reducing water losses by approximately 12,000 megalitres;
  • Increasing the reliability of supply, enabling timely delivery of orders and consistent flow rates and, in turn, providing flexibility to farm businesses;
  • Providing economic growth associated with both on-farm and local processing; and
  • Providing environmental benefits by reducing nutrient discharge into the Gippsland Lakes.

For more information visit the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Project - Phase 1A

Phase 1B

The MID is the largest irrigation district in southern Victoria and is primarily made up of dairy farming. The district’s irrigation infrastructure is largely operated manually, with service levels restricting greater agricultural productivity. There are significant water losses through evaporation and seepage during the transport of water to customers. The project focuses on upgrading the Southern Tinamba Supply Zone, but is part of broader modernisation works across the district known as the MID2030 project.

The Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Project – Phase 1B is a $60 million investment jointly funded by the Victorian Government, Commonwealth Government and Southern Rural Water through customer contributions. The project includes:

  • Replacing the upper channel system with approximately 39 kilometres of gravity pipeline;
  • Upgrading and automating 32 kilometres of existing open channel; and
  • Removing redundant outlets.

For more information vist the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Project - Phase 1B

Phase 2 Feasibility Project

The Commonwealth Government has provided $675,000 in funding towards the Macalister Irrigation District Modernisation Project – Phase 2 Feasibility Project. The study will investigate the next stages of the MID2030 modernisation project to generate further water savings across the state and options for improving water infrastructure efficiency.

Expanding the grid

Victoria’s water grid allows water to be moved from where it is captured and stored to where it is required. Investment in projects to expand the water grid increase water security for rural communities, which is particularly important during drier times.

In addition to construction projects, the Victorian and Commonwealth governments are investing over $3.6 million on feasibility projects that will investigate the viability of various water pipeline projects to enhance agricultural productivity across the state. These feasibility projects include:

  • East Grampians West Wimmera Feasibility Project;
  • Mitiamo Reticulated Water Supply Feasibility Project;
  • Yanakie Secure Water Supply Feasibility Project;
  • Sunraysia Modernisation Project – Phase 2 Feasibility Project; and
  • Moonambel Water Supply Feasibility Project.

The South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project will construct approximately 1,340 kilometres of pressurised pipeline to increase access to stock and domestic water in rural communities surrounding Wedderburn. This will include connecting the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline to the Waranga Western channel. Approximately 600 properties connected to the pipeline will be able to meet their critical water needs, rather than relying on rainfall to fill their on-farm storages, such as dams and tanks. The $82 million project is being jointly funded by the Victorian Government, Commonwealth Government and Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water through customer contributions.

The first stage of the South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project has constructed approximately 40 kilometres of trunk main. This is the ‘backbone’ of the pipeline.

Stage two will commence in 2017 and will install approximately 1,300 kilometres of distribution pipelines that connect individual properties to the water grid.

On 6 October 2016, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water and the local traditional owners, the Dja Dja Wurrung Clans. This is an excellent example of government working alongside traditional owners to better understand and respect Aboriginal water values.

For more information visit the South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project

Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water is investigating ways to expand the water grid to increase water security in parts of East Grampians and West Wimmera. The $1 million feasibility project consists of three sub-projects:

  • East Grampians Rural Water Supply – to identify viable options to extend stock and domestic pipelines south of Ararat;
  • West Wimmera Rural Water Supply – to identify viable options to extend stock and domestic pipelines around Harrow; and
  • Rocklands to Taylors Lake Channel Conversion – to investigate replacing the existing open channel connecting Rocklands Reservoir to Taylors Lake with pipeline;
    • The sub-project will also consider the best use of Toolondo Reservoir as part of the Grampians Wimmera Mallee Water headworks system in the future.

Feasible projects identified through these investigations will progress to a business case.

For more information about the East Grampians West Wimmera Feasibility Project

Goulburn Murray Water is investigating the feasibility of a pressurised pipeline to supply stock and domestic water to up to 47,000 hectares of land in northern Victoria around Mitiamo. These investigations will inform the development of a business case.

For more information about the Mitiamo Reticulated Water Supply Feasibility Project

Lower Murray Water is investigating options to further modernise and develop the Sunraysia Irrigation District. These options intend to build on the benefits realised from the Sunraysia Modernisation Project – Stage 1, which officially opened in 2016. Feasible options identified through these investigations will progress to a business case.

For more information on the Sunraysia Modernisation Project – Stage 2 Feasibility Project