Minister speaking with Adam Kay, CEO Cotton Australia Ltd, at cotton farm 'Morella' near Goondiwindi.
Source H Conkey & DEWHA
Minister with Tim Napier, CEO Border Rivers Food and Fibre, David Coulton of 'Morella' and chairman of BRFF, and Mary Harwood, DEWHA on the banks of the MacIntyre River near Goondiwindi discussing irrigation infrastructure.
Source H Conkey & DEWHA
The Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong recently made a three-day visit to several towns in the northern Murray-Darling Basin including Goondiwindi, Moree, Dubbo, Trangie, Bourke and Broken Hill.
The tour provided the Minister an opportunity to meet with irrigators, farmers, catchment management authorities, local government representatives and environmental groups to discuss water management issues important to this part of the Basin.
Senator Wong also visited a number of properties including Toorale Station near Bourke, 'Morella' a cotton farm near Goondiwindi, and the Trangie Agriculture Research Centre. These farm visits gave the Minister an opportunity to discuss innovative irrigation methods and techniques.
A focus of the trip was how the Australian Government can best deliver the range of programs and policies under Water for the Future and how to strengthen the ability of irrigation communities to deal with the challenges of adjusting to future forecasts of less water.
Senator Wong delivered the opening address at the Murray Darling Association Forum in Goondiwindi. While there she took the opportunity to travel to Morella, a cotton farm owned by David and Kim Coulton where issues of collaboration in research and development were discussed, including helping farmers to improve their productivity, water use efficiency and minimising their carbon footprint.
During her visit to the Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, west of Dubbo, Senator Wong conducted meetings with irrigators, graziers and others from the Macquarie River region and inspected a nearby irrigation farm. Moves to upgrade private irrigation infrastructure were discussed.
In Bourke, Senator Wong visited Toorale Station which was purchased last year by NSW with assistance from the Australian Government. The water normally captured for irrigation by the property will now be used to boost environmental flows. The recent heavy rain at Bourke has boosted flows to the Darling by at least 11 billion litres as a result of irrigation extractions ceasing at Toorale.
Senator Wong announced an Infrastructure Audit and Decommissioning Plan to be undertaken at Toorale which will help to reconfigure the irrigation infrastructure at the property to restore natural flows through the property. Significant environmental assets including some wetlands of national importance at Menindee Lakes will also benefit from the return of Toorale's water to the river.
Themes which emerged throughout the Minister's meetings included where environmental water would be made available in the Basin, investment in infrastructure, water market reform and socio-economic issues around water purchasing and drought. Senator Wong emphasised the importance of putting the Basin on a more sustainable footing to deal with the challenges facing Australia's most productive food bowl, against a backdrop of climate change and predictions of less water.
Several important announcements were made on the tour including the successful recipients of $5.6m in funding for the On-farm Irrigation Efficiency (Pilot Projects) Program in Queensland; the decommissioning of irrigation infrastructure at Toorale; and up to $16m for the Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge project.
More detailed information about these and other announcements can be found at: www.environment.gov.au/minister/wong/2009/index.html
Irrigation infrastructure at Toorale as at October 2008
Source D Tonkin & DEWHA
Toorale Station in far north-west NSW operated as a farming property for 150 years before the NSW government purchased it with Australian Government financial assistance last year.
Turning it over to conservation is an enormous and challenging task. The new owners of the historic grazing and cropping property, the NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change (DECC), are developing a plan to decommission the station and incorporate it into the NSW reserve system, expanding the protection of ecologically and culturally significant far western NSW Mulga landscapes.
Once a Water Sharing Plan is in place for the region, Toorale's entitlements to intercept water from the rivers and floodplain will be transferred to the Commonwealth. They are already being used to revive the rivers, wetlands and floodplains of the Murray-Darling Basin.
The Australian Government has commissioned an Infrastructure Audit and Decommissioning Plan to provide information about options to decommission the irrigation infrastructure at Toorale Station to maximise water returns to the environment.
Irrigation infrastructure on the property is understood to include, but not be limited to, six dams, Ross Billabong, stock and domestic water supply (including to neighbouring properties), water storages, irrigation channels and flood plain harvesting contours.
Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, inspected Toorale in early March as part of a three-day tour of the northern Basin.
"The Infrastructure Audit and Decommissioning Plan will help us reconfigure the existing irrigation infrastructure so even more flood waters can flow through to the Darling River," Minister Wong said.
"Significant environmental assets that will benefit from the return of this water include some wetlands of national importance at Menindee Lakes, as well as the Darling River itself."
The plan will provide several options for decommissioning. Further detailed information may be required after the current study but this will depend on the options proposed. The report is expected to be completed by mid-April 2009. Decisions on the final options will be made jointly by the Commonwealth and NSW governments and will be implemented as soon as possible.
Aerial view of Menindee Lakes
Source A Robinson & DEWHA
Menindee Lakes, a vast expanse of water in western New South Wales, is the main storage on the lower Darling River. It has the capacity to hold around 1,700 gigalitres (GL) and supplies water to Broken Hill's 20,000 people. The region is also rich in environmental and indigenous cultural heritage values.
The Menindee Lakes are an integral part of the shared water resources of the Murray-Darling Basin. The Lakes are used to both store water for local and regional use and also to regulate flows to water users and jurisdictions downstream, with these flows eventually entering the Murray River near the NSW-Victorian-South Australian borders.
The Menindee Lakes infrastructure is owned by the NSW Government and is managed by either the NSW Government or the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), depending on the volume of water in storage.
The shallowness of the system's four lakes makes them susceptible to high rates of evaporation. As much as 414 GL can be lost every year. This loss means at least 250 GL is needed in storage to provide Broken Hill with its required 10 GL of water annually.
Storing just 50 GL in an aquifer would meet Broken Hill's water supply needs for at least five years. Exploring the potential for underground water storage is part of a project the Australian Government is funding to improve the efficiency of water use in Menindee Lakes. Saving water now lost to evaporation could return up to 200GL of water to the environment each year.
The Australian Government has committed $400 million to the Menindee Lakes projects from its $5.8 billion Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure program, part of Water for the Future. As part of this commitment, the Government commissioned Geoscience Australia (GA) to investigate the region's groundwater resources for potential to supply Broken Hill (the 'Broken Hill Groundwater Resource Assessment'). This study was completed in September 2008, and found good potential for a combination of groundwater extraction and managed aquifer recharge in the vicinity of Menindee Lakes.
Based on these preliminary positive findings, the Broken Hill Managed Aquifer Recharge Project (BHMAR) was developed to further explore these options. GA completed Phase One of BHMAR in February 2009, which involved on-ground investigations and a comprehensive risk assessment of airborne electro-magnetics technology options suitable for mapping the region's groundwater and aquifer systems.
During her northern Murray-Darling Basin tour in early March 2009, the Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, announced a further $16 million in funding for the project to move into Phase Two. This phase, which will take 12-18 months, involves further investigation into the region's groundwater systems. This will be done using airborne-electro magnetic technology and on-ground drilling.
Using underground aquifers as water storage facilities is known as Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR). This process involves the intentional pumping of water into the aquifers for later recovery and use. A MAR system can be implemented using many different engineering options depending on the characteristics of the groundwater systems. Further investigation is required to determine the treatment of water accessed using a MAR system such as desalination.
Any water saved by storing water underground for Broken Hill would be returned to the Murray-Darling Basin to restore the health of the Basin's rivers and wetlands. If this next phase determines the use of sustainable groundwater resources and an aquifer storage system is practicable, a detailed engineering assessment will be undertaken to fully test this approach. More information is available in the report Managed Aquifer Recharge: An introduction
Source M Mohell & DEWHA
The Australian Government has signalled changes to the Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant Package, making it available to more people, and has increasing complementary funding assistance which forms part of the package.
The government announced the grant package in September 2008 with the aim of helping small block irrigators affected by drought and climate change and who wish to move out of irrigated farming. Importantly it will allow them to continue living on their farm and play an active role in their communities.
Eligible farms can also receive funding to help with changing the type of farming they do, or to find alternative employment, as well as removing infrastructure used for their irrigation operations.
To be eligible for the grant, a farmer must hold more than 10 ML of tradeable water and sell all of their water entitlements to the Commonwealth. This water will be available for improving the health of the environment.
Initially, the grant package was available to people on farms up to 15 ha. The government has signalled this will be expanded to farms up to 40ha as of February 2009 as part of a range of measures for the Murray-Darling Basin included in the government’s economic stimulus package.
Assistance now includes:
- a taxable exit grant of up to $150,000
- up to $10,000 for advice and training, including skill development, direction setting, succession planning and business advice, and
- up to $20,000 for removal of permanent plantings and other irrigation production related infrastructure.
The Australian Government required all Basin states to commit to a number of water reforms as a condition of making the Small Block Irrigators Exit Grant available to farmers in their jurisdictions. All states have agreed to make these changes, which means all eligible farmers in South Australia, Victoria, Queensland and NSW can apply for the grants package.
Details of the recent signalled changes to eligibility criteria for this package along with updated guidelines will be available from the website shortly:
Source J Baker
The Coorong and Lakes Alexandrina and Albert comprise one of Australia's most important wetland areas, recognised internationally for its importance to migratory birds. It is facing unprecedented pressures which are changing the ecological character of the site, presenting challenges for governments, communities and businesses.
The area, at the southern end of the Murray River, has a unique mosaic of 23 wetland types and provides habitat for many waterbirds, nationally threatened species such as the Orange Bellied Parrot and Murray Cod.
The site is listed as a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It is also important to the local Ngarrindjeri people and is used widely for fishing, camping, boating, walking, wildlife observation and research.
The ecological characteristics of the area have been altered significantly since extensive water extraction from the Murray-Darling Basin commenced in the 1800s and barrages were constructed to separate the lakes from its estuary in the 1930s.
Extracting high volumes of water for irrigation and other consumption has left much less water for the environment. More recently, extended drought and the early impacts of climate change have added to the site's ecological stress.
Since 2006, flows down the Murray River into the Coorong Ramsar site have been insufficient to offset losses from evaporation and seepage. This has caused the water levels of Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert to fall rapidly, exposing thousands of hectares of actual and potential acid sulfate soils. Modelling has indicated that if the lake levels continue to drop, there is a risk that water bodies may acidify, causing catastrophic and permanent damage.
Under the Ramsar Convention, Australia has an obligation to promote the conservation of listed wetlands. The Australian Government last year committed $200 million for implementing a long-term management plan for the Coorong and Lower Lakes, subject to due diligence, as part of a package of up to $610 million for priority water projects in South Australia.
The Minister for Climate Change and Water, Senator Penny Wong, announced in March the Australian Government will provide up to $10 million for a feasibility study to support a long-term plan, and an accompanying business case for further investment from the $200 million committed last year for an enduring solution.
"We recognise that the current extended drought, combined with a legacy of over-allocation across the Basin, poses great challenges for this internationally important wetland and the communities that live around the Lakes," Senator Wong said.
"It's in all of our interests that work commences on a long-term vision for the area, so that it can be managed for the future in a coherent way - taking into account the reality of climate change."
Another approach being tried is to create the conditions necessary for sulfur-reducing bacteria to reverse the acidification process. This technique is called bioremediation. Along with revegetation, this could play an important role in managing acid sulfate soils within the Ramsar site, but is unlikely to be able to address these issues across the whole expanse of the site. The Australian Government has committed $10 million for bioremediation and revegetation around the Lower Lakes, as part of its economic stimulus package.
The Basin States and the Australian Government, working through the Murray-Darling Ministerial Council, have agreed to address short-term pressures on the Coorong and the Lower Lakes. Actions proposed by South Australia have been referred under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. Further information can be found at:
Commencement of work at Civic Place Chatswood
Source S Petherbridge
Work has begun at Civic Place Chatswood
Source S Petherbridge
There are innovative and inspiring stories from around Australia of companies, local councils and community groups working to save our water supplies. Details on two of these projects are described below.
Stormwater innovation in NSW
Willoughby City Council is undertaking a pioneering development to harness stormwater and reduce the use of potable water by 81 per cent.
When the decision was made to redevelop Civic Place in Chatswood, the local council wanted to make sure that the new complex incorporated smart water technologies and fittings throughout the facilities and open space areas.
The key to this project is the construction of two stormwater retention/detention tanks under Ferguson Lane. These tanks have a combined storage volume of 5 megalitres or two and a half Olympic swimming pools. The primary tank will house the bulk of the reusable stormwater and act as flood mitigation storage. The secondary tank will store the treated stormwater which will be pumped to Civic Place for non-potable water use in toilets, for irrigation and in the cooling tower.
In addition the project aims to improve the quality of downstream ecosystems by reducing stormwater discharge to local creeks and Middle Harbour by 14 per cent each year.
Once completed in 2010, this project will be a valuable demonstration site for educating the local community, as well as other city councils, on water conservation and the benefits of stormwater harvesting in a high density urban environment.
The total cost of the project is $5.4 million with a contribution of $1.88 million from the Australian Government's Water Smart Australia program, part of Water for the Future.
For more information visit:
Securing a future for wineries in McLaren Vale
Vineyards at McLaren Vale South Australia
Source M Peat
Irrigators in the McLaren Vale region of South Australia will soon be substituting 780 megalitres of mains water with recycled water each year to help secure their long-term water security.
Due to the prolonged drought there has been growing uncertainty for the wine industry in this region. With funding of $3.5 million from the National Water Security Plan for Cities and Towns, irrigators will be able to connect to the Willunga Basin Water Company recycled water network.
The funding will make it possible for small and mediumsized irrigators in the region to access recycled water where previously it would have been too expensive.
The McLaren Vale Grape, Wine and Tourism Association will distribute the funding in the form of grants to cover the $11,000 cost to connect to the Willunga Basin Water Company recycled water network. Funds will also be available to cover half of the $1,100 per megalitre recycled water licence fee that is charged over a period of six years.
The first important milestone will be reached in mid-2009 with more than 100 megalitres of substituted water being used for irrigation. By the completion of the project in 2012, this will increase seven-fold.
Not only will the project provide economic benefits for the region and reduce effluent outfalls to the Gulf St Vincent, it will also help to protect the River Murray by reducing the industries reliance on its water supplies.
For more information visit: www.mclarenvale.info/
Using more water efficient products is a great way to save water in the home.
The Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme requires products to be labelled for water efficiency, allowing consumers to factor in water use when buying products.
The scheme helps Australians save water as well as money on their water and energy bills.
Just like the energy star rating label, the WELS blue star label shows the water consumption or flow rate figure of a product. The more stars, the greater the water efficiency.
The scheme covers washing machines, dishwashers, toilets, urinals, taps and showers, with flow controllers optional.
It is estimated that by 2021, Australian's could save up to $1 billion through reduced water and energy bills and save about 800 gigalitres of water just by using more efficient products.
More than two-thirds of the water saving will come from more efficient showerheads and washing machines, closely followed by toilets and urinals.
Over the same time period, it is estimated that reduced hot water usage could save between $380 million and $1 billion in energy bills and avoid six million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.
A water efficient washing machine can use up to 2/3 less water than an inefficient model. More efficient toilets can use up to nine litres less water per flush than older models and an efficient showerhead can save up to 18 litres of water a minute compared with a traditional model.
An independent report recently rated WELS as one of the most costeffective urban water management options in Australia. It is predicted that in the first five years of the scheme, the water saved is equal to turning off the water in 50,000 Australian households.
Several new products are being assessed for inclusion into the WELS scheme. They are water-using dryers, evaporative air conditioners, instantaneous gas hot water heaters, hot water circulators and domestic irrigation controllers. This work is also examining the possibility of applying minimum water efficiency standards to the existing WELS products. Minimum standards currently apply only to toilets.
For more information on the WELS scheme and to search the WELS-rated product database visit www.waterrating.gov.au
Source M McAulay
The National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative is part of the $12.9 billion Water for the Future plan. This $250 million initiative aims to assist people to preserve, recycle and use water wisely in their every day lives.
The Initiative offers rebates of up to $500 to households for the installation of a rainwater tank or greywater system and grants of up to $10,000 to surf life saving clubs to install a rainwater tank or undertake a larger water saving project.
For a household, choosing between the purchase of a rainwater tank or a greywater system depends on a range of factors. Location-specific needs should be taken into account including rainfall, roof size, garden characteristics and number of people in the household. If you live in a location with minimal rainfall for example, it may be more useful to consider a greywater system over a rainwater tank. However if unsure, seeking external advice should be considered.
Purchasing a greywater system
Between 2001 and 2004 the number of households in Australia re-using and recycling their grey water rose from 11 per cent to 16 per cent (ABS Water Account).
A greywater system is a common term used to identify the collection and re-use of domestic wastewater from a range of sources including the bath, bathroom basin, laundry or shower.
The system can compliment and increase water savings or it can be an alternative to a rainwater system where the location, end use and housing configuration may not make a rainwater tank suitable.
Greywater is classified into two categories 1) treated or 2) untreated. Greywater can be permanently or temporarily diverted for use.
- Temporary Diversion – For example, plastic pipes connected from the laundry to the garden.
- Permanent Diversion – Plumbed directly into the plumbing or drainage system of the home to divert water to the garden. Installation would cost approximately $150.
- Permanent Greywater Treatment and Reuse Systems – Plumbed directly into the plumbing or drainage system and include primary treatment, secondary treatment and disinfection systems. Some use aerobic disinfection, mechanical disinfection, membrane filtration or UV disinfection.
To claim the rebate under the National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative guidelines, households must have a permanent greywater treatment system with re-use installed by a licensed plumber.
The collection,storage and use of greywater if untreated and managed incorrectly can be hazardous to humans and plants. Greywater can contain harmful bacteria, pathogens and chemicals. Before purchasing and installing a greywater system, it is recommended that people contact their state health authority to establish the level to which their greywater must be treated, prior to re-use. All states require secondary treatment with disinfection in order to re-use greywater indoors.
State governments and local councils have different regulations regarding the use and installation of grey water. In some states and local council areas, the use of grey water is not recommended. It is advised to check with your local council regarding the use and installation of greywater devices prior to purchasing a greywater system.
The end use for re-used recycled water will depend on the quality of treatment. The higher the level of treatment the more possible re-uses there are. A lower grade of treatment will result in water suitable for toilets and sub-surface irrigation of gardens and lawns. A higher grade of treatment will result in water suitable for direct application to certain plants, laundry, washing vehicles and in exceptional cases drinking.
Purchasing a rainwater tank
Important aspects to consider in selecting a rainwater tank include the average annual rainfall, the water collection area (such as roof size) of a residence, and what size tank is most relevant to household needs. The planning, plumbing and public health requirements in local areas need to be considered.
To be eligible for the rebate, a tank needs to have a minimum storage capacity of 2,000 litres and must be plumbed in for indoor use of water in either the toilet and/or the laundry.
The rebate can be claimed even if an applicant is applying for a state, territory or local government rebate. Rebates under the National Rainwater and Greywater Initiative opened on 1 March 2009 and close 31 March 2014.
For more information call 1800 808 571 or visit www.environment.gov.au/water
Before you download
Some documents are available as PDF files. You will need a PDF reader to view PDF files.
List of PDF readers
If you are unable to access a publication, please contact us to organise a suitable alternative format.
Links to another web site
Opens a pop-up window
For up-to-date information about the Water for the Future initiative.