We are supporting farming communities as they adjust to a warmer and drier future while also enabling farmers to maximise the value of agricultural production with the water that’s available.
Investing in rural infrastructure
Works in the Macalister Irrigation District. Image courtesy Southern Rural Water.
We invested $49.3 million towards water infrastructure projects across rural and regional Victoria in 2016-17 to provide rural water security.
Working with our rural and regional water corporations we have completed 14 projects aimed at improving water access and security in drought affected areas. Projects completed include the Pella Rural Water Supply Scheme, installation of 15 emergency water supply points and construction of storages at Elmhurst and Lake Bolac. All remaining projects are on track to be completed early in 2018.
Feasibility studies into rural and regional water infrastructure projects are also underway and in September 2017, Victoria submitted three Expressions of Interest (EOIs) to the second round of the Commonwealth’s National Water Infrastructure Development Fund - Capital Component for projects with completed business cases. These projects were the Sunraysia Modernisation Project 2, Mitiamo Reticulated Water Supply Project and the Coldstream Recycled Water Pipeline Scheme. Final decisions about progress of these projects is expected in 2018.
Winter works in Gunbower. Image courtesy Connections Project.
Supporting flexibility for agriculture to adapt and maximise its value
Our successful Sustainable Irrigation Program continues to deliver sustainability outcomes and support agriculture across Victoria’s major irrigation districts. Working in partnership with CMAs and industry we are investing $59.5 million to support irrigation districts by providing grants to help irrigators improve water use efficiency, enhance environmental management and contribute to productivity. Over 53 projects are now underway across West Gippsland, North East, North Central, Goulburn Broken and Mallee regions.
Recently, the Sustainable Irrigation Program has funded landholder engagement, planning and construction of irrigation drainage systems in the Stanhope and Upper Deakin areas in the Shepparton Irrigation Region. These are the first of the new hybrid drains that have been designed to manage excess surface water on irrigated catchments from the high summer rainfall events that are occurring more frequently due to climate change. The hybrid design links fragmented drainage lines, incorporates natural environmental features such as wetlands and ensures unimpeded flow by removing artificial obstructions.
A Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy will set the management arrangements for rural drainage in Victoria. It will clarify roles and responsibilities and secure a sustainable and productive dryland agricultural sector into the future. The release of the draft Victorian Rural Drainage Strategy in October 2017 marks a significant milestone to help simplify the complex management arrangements for rural drainage and support landholders to make choices about how they want to manage drainage. The strategy is the first state-wide rural drainage strategy under development in Australia.
The strategy is being developed with key stakeholders through an open and consultative process. The draft Strategy reflects an innovative approach to involve Aboriginal Victorians, including Traditional Owners, in water policy development and promotes opportunities for landholders and Traditional Owners to collaborate to manage rural drainage.
In 2017 our reports to the Murray Darling Basin Authority showed that our salinity program is keeping the state’s salinity credits balance equal to or more than our salinity debits. We will continue to manage Victoria’s implementation of Basin Salinity Management 2030 as required under the Murray Darling Basin Plan Agreement.
Plan2Farm is a new tool that has been developed in partnership with the Victorian Government, Goulburn Broken CMA, North Central CMA and industry to enable a prosperous Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
Plan2Farm offers one to one support to farmers to undertake longer-term business planning considering significant changes in the GMID and agricultural sector. Through a guided process, Plan2Farm assists farming businesses to make more informed decisions about their farming businesses to improve resilience and help to provide a clear pathway for the future.
It was launched in September 2017 and is expected to assist up to 600 farmers and families.
Balancing the outcomes of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan
The Murray-Darling Basin Plan sets limits on the amount of water that can be taken for use from the Basin. To meet this limit, 2,750 gigalitres (GL) of water needs to be recovered throughout the Basin by 2019. Victoria’s share of this target is 1,075 GL.
We are partnering with water corporations and CMAs to achieve balanced outcomes from implementing the Murray-Darling Basin Plan in Victoria. In the past 12 months Victoria has:
- Reached agreement with other Basin governments on a package of projects to deliver environmental outcomes with less water. Victoria’s projects include a range of floodplain management and environmental flow works at ecologically significant sites such as Hattah Lakes, Gunbower Forest, and Lindsay Island.
- Jointly commissioned with New South Wales an independent review of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan Sustainable Diversion Limit (SDL) adjustment mechanism to provide a better understanding of the mechanism, and make sure decisions are based on the best available information. The report is available online.
- Published the Social and Economic Impact Assessment of the Basin Plan in Victoria online.
- Reviewed the Victorian On-Farm Modernisation Project to explore options for on-farm works that could recover water and avoid the social and economic impacts of water recovery, gain community support and be delivered in time for the rollout of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. The review will be finalised by the end of 2018.
- Gained support for further investigation of opportunities for Traditional Owner and Aboriginal engagement in water resource management in the Murray-Darling Basin.
- Consulted the public and the Murray-Darling Basin Authority on the draft Wimmera-Mallee Water Resource Plan.
- Started work on the Northern Victoria Water Resource Plan.
- Investigated with other Basin governments how to best embed complementary works and measures (such as fishways) in Murray-Darling Basin Plan implementation.
Investments in rural water infrastructure projects – across the state we are continuing to invest in infrastructure projects.
Sunraysia Modernisation Project
Completed in 2016 with 50 per cent more benefit to Sunraysia community than the original business case.
GMW Connections Project
This project was reset in September 2016 and is on track to deliver 429 GL of water savings 2020. In 2017, the winter works program invested $100 million to complete 33 km of channel remediation and repairs, automation installed at 271 sites, 35 km of pipelines and works over 500 m.
South West Loddon Rural Water Supply Project
The construction of 100 km of trunk and distribution pipelines was completed in April 2017. Detailed planning for the next stage of the project is underway, with construction due to commence in early 2018.
Bacchus Marsh Irrigation District Modernisation Project
Work is underway to construct a tank at Maddingley Basin and upgrade or build over 2 km of pipeline. This stage of the project is due to be completed in mid-2018
Werribee Irrigation District
The construction of nearly 3 km of pipeline was completed in August 2017. Channel decommissioning and automation in this section of the district is underway and will be completed by mid-2018.
Macalister Irrigation District (MID)
MID 2030 Phase 1A was completed on 30 June 2017. This Phase modernised the Southern Cowwarr and Eastern zones of the district. Construction of approximately 1.6 km of pipeline was completed in August 2017 throughout the Southern Tinamba supply zone under MID 2030 Phase 1B.
We will make sure Victoria’s water is being used efficiently by investing in water infrastructure projects and planning future improvements to the grid.
We are developing updates to the Guidelines for the development of Land and Water Management Plans in irrigation districts. The updates will be released in 2018 and are designed to minimise environmental and third-party impacts of irrigation, and improve farm water use efficiency. CMAs and other partners will review their regional Land and Management Plans to ensure they are aligned with our guidelines and make updates over the next two years. Check your local CMA website for more information.
Before the end of the year we will begin a review of the future use of delivery shares in the Goulburn Murray and Sunraysia irrigation districts. The review will consider how tariffs and price signals can be used to help districts respond to changing customer needs. It will be completed in 2018 so it can be considered during consultation for Goulburn Murray Water’s next pricing submission in 2019-20.
We have accelerated a program that manages salinity in the Mallee region where uncontrolled irrigation can force saline groundwater into the Murray River. A multiple agency Program Executive Committee has been formed to guide and coordinate these improvements with all projects due to be completed by 2019.