Water Matters - Issue 17
On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program
Round Three open
As part of the Water for the Future initiative, the Australian Government is calling for applications for Round Three of the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program.
The program aims to assist irrigators in the southern connected system of the Murray-Darling Basin to modernise their on-farm irrigation infrastructure and return water to the environment.
The southern connected system encompasses the following catchments:
- New South Wales Murray
- Victorian Murray
- South Australian Murray
- Loddon, and
- the Lower Darling (south of Menindee Lakes).
The total funding commitment for Round Three of the program is up to $100 million.
Irrigation pumps and equipment
Proposals are invited from organisations having close relationships with irrigator communities including irrigation infrastructure operators, catchment management authorities, commodity or agricultural industry groups, and regional irrigation bodies.
Projects seeking funding need to demonstrate an ability to secure a long-term sustainable future for those irrigation communities, secure real improvements in river health, deliver substantial and lasting returns of water to the environment, and represent value for money.
In exchange for investment in on-farm infrastructure, successful recipients will transfer at least 50 per cent of water savings generated by their projects to the Australian Government for environmental use.
Water entitlements transferred to the Commonwealth as part of this program are not subject to any state trading limits such as the 4 per cent cap on out-of-district trade. All eligible organisations in the southern Murray-Darling Basin are encouraged to apply before the closing date on 26 July 2012.
The guidelines and application form are available at: www.environment.gov.au/water/programs/srwui/on-farm-3.html or by calling 1800 218 478.
Success stories from previous On-Farm funding rounds
Border Rivers Gwydir, NSW
A Moree based pecan producer is the driving force behind a water saving plan to return more water to the environment and increase productivity on his farm by 30 per cent.
Managing Director of Stahmann Farms, Matthew Durack, said a $2.9 million On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency grant in conjunction with their water recovery program has helped convert some of their surface irrigation to drip irrigation.
Upgrades to a 150mm internal mainline at an irrigated vineyard at Berri, SA
"We investigated a variety of options and decided sub-surface drip irrigation was the most appropriate system given our management and soil type," Matthew said.
Following a successful 25 acre trial of converting 40 year old trees from flood to drip irrigation, Mr Durack was convinced he should convert the balance of the 700 acres, which had been identified as low efficiency flood irrigation country.
"Rather than simply selling the water on the open market we thought we would upgrade our irrigation," he said.
"The grant paid for the installation of all the hardware for the pumps, filters, mainline, drip tape and control systems. All up there were around 27,000 connections."
The infrastructure upgrade is expected to generate a minimum of 750 megalitres in water savings. Half of which will be transferred to the Commonwealth.
"The trees have responded well. Our productivity has risen by 30 per cent. By investing in efficiency upgrades and converting from flood to drip, irrigation communities are benefiting socially, economically and environmentally," Matthew said.
The South Australian Murray–Darling Basin NRM (SAMDBNRM) Board received $1.8 million through the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program to convert irrigation systems and improve onfarm water monitoring for greater water efficiency.
"We want to put in place new strategies that save water, to ensure irrigation properties are more sustainable and adaptable into the future," SAMDBNRM's Michael Cutting said.
Many of the projects involve extensions to existing soil water monitoring networks and irrigation system upgrades have improved on-farm automation, fertigation and filtration equipment. Twenty one irrigators are involved in the project, which is expected to save 706 megalitres of water of which 355 megalitres will be returned to the Commonwealth.
"With more efficient systems and the adoption of best practice management techniques, irrigated properties will require less water to produce the same amount of high quality horticulture," Michael said.
The majority of the on-farm works are taking place on wine grape and citrus properties, and Michael said the irrigation infrastructure works are not only important for the sustainability of the irrigated agricultural sector, but for the social fabric of the region as well.
"The area is very reliant on the irrigation sector, it underpins the local economy and provides major employment. It's a compelling reason for us to work towards ensuring the irrigation sector is vibrant and sustainable," he said.