Delivering a healthy working Basin for Australia: Narromine, New South Wales

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Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2011

Program: Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance
Funding recipient: Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance
Project commencement: August 2009
Project completed: November 2010

Irrigators in the Narromine district are confident a plan which aims to increase irrigation efficiency will not only provide long-term employment opportunities but guarantee the community’s future sustainability.

Damaged irrigation channel (M. Mohell)

The Narromine Private Irrigation District received an Australian Government Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance grant of $278,000 to look at alternative ways to increase water use efficiency for irrigation, stock and domestic purposes.

Involving some 100 members, the Narromine Private Irrigation District forms part of the Macquarie–Castlereagh catchment in central western New South Wales. Covering about 8.5 million hectares, the catchment makes up about 6.9 per cent of the total area of the Murray–Darling Basin.

Planning for the project began back in August 2009. Members of the irrigation district could see that their channel system wasn't as efficient as it could have been. After years of drought and reduced water allocations, they were keen to explore rationalising the system, with some on the system's periphery willing to just maintain a stock and domestic supply, which would reduce transmission water losses.

The irrigation district engaged consultants and engineers to carry out a modernisation plan, with members also actively contributing time and money to support the project.

The modernisation would give irrigators more control over their water and lead to water savings that would keep the river system in better health and potentially benefit the Macquarie Marshes, an internationally significant wetland listed under the Ramsar Convention and located downstream from the district.

The district’s members believe that creating greater efficiencies and reducing water losses in the system by upgrading the irrigation infrastructure will allow irrigators to become more productive, and support them in diversifying into other crops.

Scheme discharge

The upgrade will have a flow on effect, helping job growth and impacting positively on the social fabric of the shire.

Thanks to Australian Government funding the modernisation plan has been completed. Members are now exploring funding sources to put the plan into action during the next few years.

To date, the department has received 17 finalised plans under the modernisation program, covering almost 80 per cent of irrigation entitlements in the Murray–Darling Basin. Together, this information forms a strong picture of irrigation infrastructure, service delivery and efficiency across the Basin.

Those applying for modernisation assistance want to increase the efficiency of their delivery systems and provide the best service to their customers. As outlined in their plans, options include upgrading metering and pump stations, lining existing channels, replacing channels with pipes, and closing down inefficient sections of systems.

Governments at all levels are working with Basin communities to achieve a healthy river system that supports strong and viable communities. Central to this is the strengthened involvement of local communities in the design and roll out of government programs.

The Australian Government is also committed to ‘bridging the gap’ between current water diversions and any final sustainable diversion limits in the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, through water savings generated by infrastructure investments and voluntary water purchases.