Central western districts benefit from irrigation modernisation projects
Two projects funded under the Australian Government's Water for the Future initiative in the Macquarie-Castlereagh catchment of New South Wales are helping communities in the central western district adapt to a future with less water, while enhancing productivity and environmental wellbeing.
A first for Marthaguy Irrigation Scheme
The first NSW irrigation infrastructure modernisation project funded by Water for the Future is complete.
Marthaguy Irrigation Scheme Pty Ltd received $9.4 million under the Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) to rationalise its channel system and modernise its water management infrastructure.
Its Greening the Marthaguy project, the culmination of five years work, will provide 4,928 megalitres of water entitlements to the Commonwealth through water savings, which will be used to benefit Murray-Darling Basin rivers and wetlands.
The upgraded pumps that deliver water across the Marthaguy Irrigation Scheme's 60 kilometres of stock and domestic pipes. Photo:DSEWPaC
"The project has been great for the members with benefits for all," said Glen Whittaker who retired about 800 hectares of developed land and more than 3,000 megalitres of storage capacity in the decommissioned section of the Scheme to dry-land cropping and grazing.
Marthaguy Irrigation Scheme is located 33km north of Warren and pumps water from the Macquarie River 4km above the Marebone Weir pool. The Scheme supplies general security water and stock and domestic water to 19 members, 12 of whom irrigate about 6,200 hectares of land on 18 properties.
As part of the project a new enclosed 60km pipeline was installed and 16km of open earth channels no longer needed were decommissioned and the channels filled in. Remote monitoring systems were also installed to manage and control water use for both irrigation and stock and domestic purposes.
The rationalised earth channel and new stock and domestic pipeline has dramatically reduced previous problems with seepage, effectively drought-proofed a lot of properties, and now protects stock watering.
"We have a rejuvenated confidence in our irrigation enterprise due to the ability of the Scheme to operate in a wide range of water availability scenarios," said Bealcott Partnership owner, Mark Beach.
"With the increased efficiency and improved reliability of the new Scheme, we are now looking at ways to maintain a regular program and workforce."
Problems arose in the past from power blackouts and the Scheme did not know pumps had stopped until the next morning when the channel was empty. It could then take two days to refill, costing even more water and jeopardising crop production.
Now with an automated alert system in place the scheme can have pumps back online within 30 minutes.
Completion of Greening the Marthaguy has improved the long term viability of the Scheme and the district.
"The new stock and domestic supply is the best thing that has happened for our farming enterprise," said Michael and Margaret O'Brien who operate a mixed farming and grazing enterprise at the northern extremity of the Scheme.
"Under the new arrangement we have permanent access to a good water supply, both quality and quantity. This provides a sustainable future for our stock operations and having permanently available water is a dream."
Reconfiguring and concentrating water delivery to an efficient purpose built channel network has meant that the Scheme is operable under almost all allocation years.
Long term, this will allow members to irrigate crops in low allocation years to maintain farm productivity and improve resource utilisation. In years of high water availability, the Scheme will operate more efficiently allowing members to transfer carry-over-water forward to secure water supplies for future years, which will provide a more stable and reliable enterprise mix to farming businesses.
Irrigators in the Trangie-Nevertire Irrigation Scheme near Dubbo are working with the Australian Government to lessen the impact of drought and get the maximum benefit from annual water allocations.
Re-shaping Trangie channels. Photo: DSEWPaC
Vulnerable to water loss for decades, the new Scheme has turned loss to gain for members of the Trangie-Nevertire Cooperative Ltd and water losses into water savings for the environment and creating sustainable farms, with $115 million of Australian Government investment in irrigation infrastructure funding.
Local irrigator and Chair of the Trangie-Nevertire Irrigation Scheme, Jim Winter, says farmers in the area have long been concerned with an unsustainable rate of water loss.
"It's a new way of thinking about securing water supplies," Mr Winter said. "It's not just sticking a band-aid on parts of the problem. We're getting rid of the boom and bust extremes of water supply which has wreaked so much havoc on farming."
The new 'whole-system approach' of the modernised Scheme means real water savings will be realised throughout the region, not just on individual properties.
It involved taking some farmers off the irrigation system but also included a new stock and domestic pipeline for every landholder in the cooperative.
Losses were reduced even further by installing automated real-time water metering, automated gates and improved telemetry to provide greater control over water use, and a new rubber lining for channels.
Trangie channel lining. Photo: DSEWPaC
The re-shaped channels are being lined with a durable rubber used for dams in Europe and the USA. Trangie's channel lining order is the largest the company has ever received.
The lining not only limits water loss but helps control weeds, which results in the use of less chemicals harming the environment.
Before the upgrade, the Cooperative tried to minimise water loss by block watering and providing a bulk volume of water down the system to everyone at the same time. Everyone had to use their water at a similar time each year, which meant the same crops were grown by each farmer.
"Secure water now means farmers can diversify their crops," Mr Winter explained.
"In the past, farmers grew what their neighbours were growing but a reliable water supply enables diversification."
Secure and reliable water means secure and reliable income for farmers, which in turn means secure and reliable trade for local communities.
"It is easier to keep a doctor in town and a school open if there is reliable income and long-term security in the district," Mr Winter said.
"Once a family goes it's pretty much impossible to get them back as we learnt in the last drought."
"Trangie, Nevertire and Warren have recovered some of their populations and they're new families."
The project will provide 29,839 megalitres of water entitlements to the Commonwealth for environmental use through water savings.
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