Water Matters Issue 32 - May 2014

Department of the Environment, 2014

Celebrating 40 years of the Ramsar Convention in Australia

On Sunday 2 February communities around Australia and the world celebrated World Wetlands Day.

This year’s celebrations were of particular importance to Australia, as we mark the 40th anniversary of the designation of the first Ramsar wetland site in the world – Cobourg Peninsula in the Northern Territory. Since that first wetland designation, Australia has lead the way in protecting and conserving wetlands with 65 Ramsar wetlands now designated in Australia, covering more than 8.3 million hectares.

The theme for this year’s World Wetlands Day was ‘Wetlands and Agriculture’. A touring exhibition is currently on show at the Australian National Botanic Gardens visitors’ centre until 21 February. Over the next few months it will travel to ReefHQ Aquarium in Townsville and the Kakadu National Park visitors’ centre in the Northern Territory.

For more information on World Wetlands Day visit:

To read more about Australia’s Ramsar sites see the current edition of the Wetlands Australia magazine:

Lagoon, Cobourg Peninsula. © Michelle McAulay

Cobourg Peninsula Aboriginal Land and Wildlife Sanctuary. © Jeanette Muirhead

$158 million for on-farm irrigation upgrades

More than 450 irrigators in southern NSW, South Australia and Victoria will benefit from $158 million of Australian Government funding to improve the water efficiency of their irrigation systems.

In early April, Senator Birmingham announced the six regional organisations to deliver projects under the fourth round of the Australian Government’s On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program.

“The successful delivery partners in Round Four are the Australian Processing Tomato Research Council Inc., Irrigation Efficiency Partners Pty Ltd, Murray Irrigation Limited, Ricegrowers Association of Australia Inc. (Murray Consortium), South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board and Waterfind Pty Ltd,” Senator Birmingham said.

For more information visit:

To read about some successful projects under Round 1, visit:

Cleaning up Canberra’s waterways

Banksia St, O’Connor Wetland in Canberra.

In a joint agreement between the Australian and ACT governments, Canberra received $85 million to clean up its lakes and waterways.

Six priority catchments have been identified: Yarralumla Creek; Lake Tuggeranong; Upper Molonglo; Fyshwick; Lower Molonglo and Riverview.

“Reducing the level of nutrients and other pollutants flowing into local waters will also improve water quality and river health in the Murray-Darling Basin downstream of the ACT, particularly the Murrumbidgee River,” Senator Birmingham said.

For more information go to:

Water trading to benefit environment and economy

In January the Water Trading Framework was released. It outlines the requirements and standards for Commonwealth activity in the water market, allowing our water portfolio to be used more effectively by better enabling the targeting of environmental priority areas from year to year.

For more information on the Commonwealth Environmental Water Trading Framework go to:

Funding for irrigation upgrades in Queensland’s Murray-Darling Basin

In January this year Queensland’s Murray-Darling Basin communities received $11 million of funding for irrigation upgrades under Round Five of the Healthy HeadWaters Water Use Efficiency project.

Six successful applicants will be using these funds to improve on-farm irrigation efficiency by upgrading irrigation distribution systems, converting open channels to pipes and making water storages more efficient.

For more information on the Healthy HeadWaters Water Use Efficiency project visit:

Sunraysia receives funding for irrigation upgrades

More than $100 million of funding will be available for irrigation infrastructure upgrades in the Sunraysia region, following the signing of a joint agreement between the Australian and Victorian Governments in December 2013.

The Sunraysia Modernisation Project project will upgrade the Sunraysia irrigation delivery system, providing irrigators in the region with a more reliable, quality water supply, enabling them to produce more higher value crops.

It will also deliver an annual average of 7000 million litres of water which will be transferred to the Commonwealth for environmental use.

For more information on the Sunraysia Modernisation Project visit:

New funding agreement for Menindee Lakes

Menindee Lakes. © Kelly Marsland, MDBA

In December 2013 the Australian Government announced it will provide $800 000 to the NSW Government to support a water saving project at Menindee Lakes near Broken Hill, New South Wales.

While the Menindee Lakes storage is an important element of the Murray-Darling Basin water supply system, it is very inefficient with high levels of evaporation.

The funding will be used to undertake project planning, stakeholder consultation and detailed design work for a water savings project to reduce average evaporation at the Menindee Lakes by 80 gigalitres per year.

Importantly, this agreement will provide the basis for determining the total scope of water savings and cost of the overall Menindee Lakes project and is due to be completed in the second half of 2014.

For further information go to:

Options for securing Broken Hill’s water supply

Securing Broken Hill’s water supply is a key element of the government’s investigations into improving the management of the Menindee Lakes water storage.

The Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge (BHMAR) project undertaken by Geoscience Australia investigated groundwater-related options to help secure Broken Hill’s water supply.

The reports identify new groundwater resources with up to 4400 gigalitres of fresh to acceptable quality groundwater estimated to be stored in the regional aquifer system. These groundwater storage estimates are indicative only and the sustainable level of any future use of this water requires further investigation.

For further information on these studies go to:

Local engagement officers recruitment round

The Commonwealth Environmental Water Office is now recruiting six local engagement officers to work directly with Murray-Darling Basin communities when considering environmental watering decisions.

The officers will work with all levels of government and local communities to help identify opportunities to use Commonwealth environmental water to its best effect, locally and Basin-wide.

They will be based at Deniliquin, Leeton and Dubbo in New South Wales, Mildura in Victoria, Berri in South Australia and Goondiwindi in Queensland.

For more information, visit: