Irrigation Hotspots Assessment Program

The Irrigation Hotspots Assessment Program is a component of the $5.8 billion Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program.

The Hotspots Program uses a consistent and science-based approach to identify the nature, location and amount of water losses (known as hotspots) in existing channel and piped irrigation delivery systems across Australia. The Program aims to inform irrigation water providers of the nature, location and amount of water lost in their irrigation water delivery system, thereby identifying potential water savings.

The Program has funded nine irrigation water providers to identify their sources of water loss. All of these providers also received funding under the Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance program to develop a plan to address identified hotspots. Six of the projects funded under the Hotspots Program subsequently received funding under the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program in New South Wales to implement their modernisation plans and reduce their water losses.

Hotspots assessments have helped to ensure that investment in new irrigation infrastructure under the Australian Government's Water for the Future initiative has been targeted to maximise water savings. This in turn has restored water to the environment and contributed to bridging the gaps identified in the Murray Darling Basin Plan.

The Hotspots Assessment Program was available to those Irrigation Water Providers who were successful in receiving an Irrigation Modernisation Planning Assistance grant. That program closed on 29 October 2012 and, as a result, the Hotspots Program is also now closed for applications.

How is water lost in an irrigation water delivery system?

Potential water losses from an irrigation channel

Source Irrigation Hotspots Program

Identifying water-loss hotspots is a crucial first step to improve irrigation efficiency. Water can be lost in an irrigation water delivery system through:

  • evaporation (water lost to the atmosphere)
  • seepage (the movement of water through the beds of irrigation channels)
  • leakage (water lost through channel banks and structures)
  • operational losses (theft, outfalls, system fill, unmetered diversions and inaccurate metering).

What is a hotspots assessment?

A hotspots assessment identifies water losses at a whole-of-system and sub-system level, by incorporating local knowledge with data from irrigation district operators and detailed on-site investigations.

To ensure a consistent and robust approach, the Australian Government commissioned the CSIRO to develop the Technical Manual for Assessing Hotspots in Channel and Piped Irrigation Systems (Technical Manual). The manual was developed through a series of workshops that involved national and international experts in irrigation and hydrology, along with Australian and state government representatives.

The technical manual is designed for irrigation water providers and consultants, to help them evaluate water losses and gains in both open-channel and piped irrigation systems. It outlines a range of hotspots assessment methods including:

  • water balances
  • remote sensing
  • electromagnetic and airborne electromagnetic surveys
  • geo-electrical resistivity surveys
  • groundwater monitoring
  • inflow-outflow methods
  • pondage tests.