Redevelop a surface irrigation system and infrastructure upgrade

Department of the Environment, 2014

Ricegrowers' Association of Australia Inc

On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program Case Study

Telemetry equipment automated by solar power

Location: Goolgowi, New South Wales

Australian Government funding: $368,500 (GST Inclusive) Round: One

Project: Redevelop a surface irrigation system and infrastructure upgrade

Water transferred to Commonwealth: 220 ML

Project began: October 2010

Project completed: June 2013

Grant and Cindy Cameron own a 2400 hectare property at Goolgowi in south-western New South Wales about 50 kilometres from Griffith and have been involved in irrigation for the past 25 years.

The Camerons run 1000 head of sheep and a winter and summer cropping program of wheat, barley, canola, soybeans, cotton, maize and rice.

With the help of an On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program grant from the Australian Government, the Camerons have increased the efficiency of their farm and saved an estimated 350 megalitres of water by upgrading their surface irrigation system.

With more than half of the property reliant on irrigation, the Camerons applied for the grant to upgrade their irrigation infrastructure.

"Our decision to apply for a grant was based on saving labour during in-crop irrigation, using available water more efficiently, increasing our machinery efficiency and being able to grow a greater range of crops," the Camerons said. The project involved redeveloping the surface irrigation system and laser levelling the existing contour layout to form square bays with bankless channels on a terraced layout.

Prior to the project, the Camerons trialled two different forms of row cropping. One area was set up for laser levelled terraced bays and another area used an even slope. The terraced bay layout proved to be much more efficient, using less labour during in-crop irrigation and was easier to manage.

"We also upgraded major drains, installed a reticulation pumping station to cover 230 hectares and purchased additional row crop equipment," the Camerons said. 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.

Cotton round bales

As a result of the infrastructure upgrades undertaken on the farm, 220 megalitres was transferred to the Australian Government for environmental watering and will be used to benefit local assets in the Murrumbidgee catchment such as Yanga National Park and the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain.

The Camerons can now undertake double cropping on the property, which has increased farm productivity.

"Before the project we could only double crop rice and wheat, now we can double crop cotton and wheat, and soybeans and wheat."

The increase in water use efficiency means a reduction in water loss and reduced accessions to the water table— ultimately reducing salinity.

The upgrade to the surface irrigation system provides flexibility and labour savings. Less time spent on irrigation management has given the Camerons more time for family activities with their four sons.

The Camerons project has generated interest from other local irrigators and has also been showcased at local farm field days as a working example of maximising on-farm efficiency through innovative irrigation technologies.

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