National Audit of On-farm Irrigation Information Tools
Chapman, M., Chapman, L., and Dore, D. (2007).
Final report prepared for the Australian Government Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts by RuralPlan Pty. Ltd.
About the publication
This project was instigated to undertake a national audit of on-farm irrigation information tools. The outcomes of this project will be used to assist in improvements to water use efficiency.
There is a vast array of equipment that allows the irrigation manager to receive objective data on every water input and output within the farm water system. There are many examples of equipment being under-used by managers because of the time and investment required to make full use of the equipment or because the data produced did not 'ring true' to the farm manager. This is a substantial issue as it could indicate that the equipment has not been correctly calibrated, that the farmer knows that variability across the farm outweighs the point-source data, or that indeed the data is correct and the on-farm practices could be improved. Figuring out the difference between what the data says and what the farmer knows is time consuming but important work.
An "irrigation information tool" helps transform various data inputs into valuable information for irrigators to optimise their water use efficiency. The tool may be used by the irrigator or by a third party such as a consultant or engineer. The key feature is that it will help provide the very best information for decision making that can be expected to optimise water use efficiency. The tools identified fit one or more of the following categories:
- Forecasting and record keeping tools
- Storage and delivery
- Controlling water on and off the paddock
- Crop water use
The tools demonstrate the array of factors that the manager must consider in his or her decision making if they are to be profitable, sustainable and water use efficient.
Another important factor in assessing the utility of the tool has been to assess whether there is a substantial community of users for the tool. User support and the possibility of group learning are critical to maximising the value of many of the tools described in the audit.