Redevelopment of surface irrigation system

Department of the Environment, 2014

Ricegrowers' Association of Australia Inc

On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program Case Study

Michael Hughes and sons on their Deniliquin property

Location: Deniliquin, New South Wales

Australian Government Funding: $282,600 (GST Inclusive) Round: One

Project: Redevelopment of surface irrigation system

Water transferred to Commonwealth: 120 ML

Project began: October 2010

Project completed: April 2013

Michael and Simone Hughes grow rice on their 568 hectare property at Deniliquin, New South Wales. The majority of the farm is irrigated and the Hughes' were keen to improve the long-term sustainability of their production.

In 2010, the Hughes received an On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program grant from the Australian Government to redevelop their surface irrigation system.

The project means the Hughes can adapt to possible future climate conditions with greater certainty that they can still be productive in times of reduced water availability.

"Greater water use efficiency will help the farm to produce during periods of extreme weather events."

The upgrade included constructing three kilometres of channel, nearly two kilometres of drains, new water storage with nearly 100 megalitre capacity, and a refurbishment of the existing storage dam to hold about 200 megalitres.

Redevelopment works to the irrigation system on the Hughes' property

The upgrade also included 70 hectares of land-forming and a new storage dam pump.

"The program funding has enabled us to fast track farm development to meet our goals of increased productivity and improved water use efficiency," Michael said.

"We will see significant gains in crop yield, water savings and improved farm profit."

The project means the Hughes can adapt to possible future climate conditions with greater certainty that they can still be productive in times of reduced water availability.

"Greater water use efficiency will help the farm to produce during periods of extreme weather events."

Michael anticipates the upgrades will save about 210 megalitres of water.

"There will be yield benefits as we can meet crop water needs during dry times and minimize water logging during wet times."

"The water saved through the upgrades can be used to benefit the region's river and wetland ecosystems."

The water savings generated from on-farm projects are shared between the irrigator and the Australian Government. The government returns its portion of the water savings to the environment to protect and restore rivers, wetlands and other environmental assets in the Murray-Darling Basin. This will help 'bridge the gap' to the sustainable diversion limits under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.

The 'gap' is the amount of water that needs to be returned to the rivers and wetlands of the Murray-Darling Basin to restore its health and underpin its industries.

As a result of the infrastructure upgrades undertaken on the farm, 120 megalitres was transferred to the Australian Government for environmental watering and will be used to benefit local assets such as Tuppal Creek, the Jimaringle, Cockran and Gwynnes creeks, and other parts of the Edward-Wakool river system.

The project has also benefitted the local Deniliquin community.

"All of the project funds were spent with local suppliers, spreading the money through local communities," Michael said.

More information about the program is available on the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program web page or by calling 1800 218 478.