The Program has a strong history of reducing adverse impacts of irrigation on the environment and third parties, whilst improving water use efficiency and best practice land management for environmental and productive outcomes.
The Program is administered by DELWP and is delivered in partnership with Catchment Management Authorities (CMAs), extension staff from the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR) and rural water corporations.
Irrigated agriculture in Victoria accounts for 38% of the state’s agricultural output, contributing $4.4 billion to the economy in 2013-14, while utilising just 3% 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.
- 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; and
- Supports implementation of the Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program.
The Victorian Government is investing $59.5 million over the next four years in the program. This is funded through the Environmental Contribution (EC) Levy, Tranche 4.
DELWP and 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.
DELWP’s delivery partners are:
The Sustainable Irrigation 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:
- Prescribes water use licences and salinity impact zones; and
- Defines water use objectives and standard conditions for water use licences (including section 51 license amendments).
The Sustainable Irrigation Program undertakes state-wide reporting on regional programs across Victoria’s major irrigation areas in the past two years (2013-15). The report provides a background to the irrigation context in Victoria and provides highlights and specific program outputs across the state during this period.
The program provides an annual report on salinity management in the northern areas that are part of the Murray-Darling Basin.
State-wide reviews of particular elements of the program also occur periodically, for example the Victorian Irrigation Drainage Program.
Basin Salinity Management
Salinity remains a significant management focus within the Murray-Darling Basin and poses ongoing environmental, social and economic risks.
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 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. They are the primary mechanism to protect the beneficial uses of water from irrigation impacts, as prescribed by the State Environmental Protection Policies for Water of Victoria.
Each plan provides a regionally-specific and co-ordinated 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 makes sure that the plans have strong stakeholder support and are technically and economically sound.
DELWP is currently reviewing its Guidelines for the development of LWMP in designated irrigation areas, to provide contemporary directions to CMAs as they periodically review or renewing their plans. This will ensure that regional plans and their actions are relevant to the current policy, and environmental and economic conditions in the region.
Land and Water Management Plans have been prepared by the following CMAs for their irrigation areas:
These plans are expected to be updated over the next two years.
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 license.
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; and
- Reduce the uncertainty for prospective developers by clarifying standards and expectations.
Advice on IDG that applies to specific regions can be accessed through 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 activities are used to support improved irrigation water use efficiency, including:
- Property planning (including grants for the preparation or update of whole farm plans), and other decision support programs, such as Plan2Farm
- Provision of specialist independent advice to irrigators through the DEDJTR irrigation extension staff;
- Grants to enable adoption of improved farm irrigation infrastructure; and
- Leveraging of Commonwealth and other funding for on-farm upgrades where it is considered there will be net public benefit.
Victorian Farm Modernisation Project
The Victorian Farm Modernisation Project (VFMP) is a Commonwealth government-funded project, providing up to $100 million in funds to Goulburn-Murray irrigators that has been underway since 2013. The project funds enable adoption of improved farm water delivery technologies, such as laser grading, installation of pressurised irrigation systems and soil moisture monitoring equipment.
The objective of the VFMP is to provide funds to irrigators undertaking farm works, which will improve water use efficiency and reduce “losses” occurring in the farm supply of water for irrigation. A portion of the “agreed savings” generated through this work is transferred to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder, while a portion is retained with the irrigator for the use.
This project is delivered through the regionally titled Farm Water Program, which is delivered through a consortium of partner organisations, led by the GB CMA.
The consortium members include:
- Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority
- North Central Catchment Management Authority
- North East Catchment Management Authority
- Goulburn-Murray Water
- Murray Dairy
- Dairy Australia
- Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning
- Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources
- Northern Victorian irrigators
For further information on the regional implementation of this project, go to the GB CMA website
Improving Water Use Efficiency monitoring
In addition to the above, DELWP is investing in improved monitoring of water use efficiency at a regional scale. This research program, led by DEDJTR Spatial Sciences, has been developing over the past decade, with benchmarking of irrigation water use being gathered across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District.
The work is providing important data on trends in water use, in the context of land use changes, irrigation modernisation (both on-farm and at the supply scale), and over periods of variable climate (through the millennium drought, into periods of short-term flooding and wetter conditions). It provides the ability to monitor and report farm water use to drive future improvements in water efficiency.