Water savings from Coleambally projects make a splash
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce
Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack
22 October 2015
Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister and Member for Riverina, Michael McCormack, have used National Water Week as an opportunity to see first-hand the benefits the Australian Government’s $750 million Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Programme (PIIOP) and $626 million On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program (OFIEP) are delivering to farmers on the ground in Coleambally, NSW.
The Ministers inspected work completed by Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative under the PIIOP, and visited a rice-growing farm belonging to Trent Gardiner, Chair of Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative.
Minister McCormack said he was delighted to host Minister Joyce in his electorate of Riverina during National Water Week to see how the delivery of these vital water infrastructure projects was progressing.
“Water is such an important resource for so many people, whether they are farmers or the residents of towns and cities both in the Riverina and right across the nation. We are committed to ensuring that this precious resource can be shared by all, in a way that protects the social and economic fabric of our communities,” Minister McCormack said today.
Minister Joyce said under the PIIOP, Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative received $51.1 million in funding for projects that upgraded water delivery and storage infrastructure across the Coleambally irrigation area, including on 93 farms.
“These infrastructure works are now fully operational and have returned 11.2 gigalitres (per annum on average) of water savings to the Commonwealth.
“In total, across NSW, the first two rounds of the PIIOP have funded the construction by irrigation network operators of about 455 kilometres of new or refurbished water delivery channels; 1,011 kilometres of stock and domestic pipeline for water supply for 225 farmers; 4,468 new meters and control points; and water delivery infrastructure on 324 farms.
“The OFIEP helps individual farmers upgrade water delivery infrastructure on their farms, increasing efficiency and flexibility in water use, while returning up to 50% of water savings to the farmers (as agreed by the applicant) and at least 50 per cent of the resulting water savings to the environment.
“Under the first four rounds of the OFIEP, the average return of water savings to the environment has been 70 per cent, with 30 per cent retained by irrigators—but the programme delivers other important benefits beyond water use savings.
“For example, irrigators have found the improvements they’ve been able to implement under the programme have given them greater flexibility of crop choice—allowing the switch to higher value return crops as soft commodity price change and seasonal conditions vary.
“Other productivity improvements include increased yield from crops and the ability to produce a larger crop from lower water allocations.
“Mr Gardiner received $212,000 in project funding under OFIEP, which he has used to completely transform his farm operations—turning his least productive farm into his most productive.
“The 140 megalitres of water savings in general security entitlement terms generated from this project has been shared, with Mr Gardiner retaining 40 megalitres and 100 megalitres being transferred to the Commonwealth for environmental watering.
“The PIIOP and OFIEP programmes improve the efficiency and productivity of water use and management on-farm and in private irrigation networks, while also delivering water savings to the environment.
“These programmes are a key element in our delivery of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan, which we are committed to implementing in full and on time.
“We are undertaking the most significant water infrastructure programme in Australian history, investing an average of around $2.5 million dollars every day in infrastructure upgrades to support sustainable agricultural production, healthy rivers, and strong communities in the Basin.
“The theme of this year’s National Water Week is ‘Innovation’—and these programmes are great examples of how innovation and improvements in water management are increasing efficiency and productivity, delivering economic, social and environmental benefits.”