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.
Water for Victoria Implementation, 2018

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

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.

Next Steps

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.