Water Matters - Issue 41, March 2017

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Diversity stems from irrigation efficiency gains

Daniel and John Dalzell benefit from the On-farm Irrigation Efficiency Program.

Daniel Dalzell has seen many benefits from upgrading components of his irrigation system, after receiving funding from the On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program (OFIEP) in 2014.

Benefits included an immediate increase in yields from 8-10 tonnes per acre to 10-12 tonnes per acre in two seasons as well as business growth and diversification.

Until 2014, the ageing irrigation system on Mr Dalzell’s Bookpurnong vineyard in South Australia (SA) was inefficient and required constant maintenance.

For Mr Dalzell, having to turn water on and off manually required a considerable amount of time and effort and similarly, his filtration system needed regular attention.

“With the old filtration system, it was almost impossible to leave the property, because I was always cleaning filters - especially when the river was dirty,” Mr Dalzell said.

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Although the system was capable of fertigating through under-vine sprinklers, Mr Dalzell suspected he was losing fertiliser to weeds in the mid row, and was looking for a more efficient delivery system.

Mr Dalzell was granted $81,900 to convert under-vine sprinklers to drip across 10 hectares of the property and to install new filters, soil moisture probes and system automation.

In return for the funding, Mr Dalzell has transferred 19 mega litres of licensed water back to the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH) for use as environmental water (E-Water). 

E-Water is delivered to the wetlands and floodplains of the River Murray system, simulating the natural flood events experienced before the introduction of locks and weirs.

Increased flows of water to these locations provides an essential boost to native populations of flora and fauna. OFIEP projects, managed by Natural Resources, SA Murray-Darling Basin, have returned close to 16,000 mega litres of water back to the CEWH to date.

The new automation system – which is pre-programmable and radio-linked back to a computer in his house – means less hours spent in the field, more hours growing his business and a more sociable lifestyle.

“Having an automated system means that I don’t have to be onsite for the water to be turned on or off. We have the flexibility to go away and it’s freed up time to spend more time with my family.  Having that escape keeps me more motivated about farming,” Mr Dalzell said.

Data recorded by soil moisture probes is also helping to make more informed decisions.

The ability to switch water on automatically has also helped to reduce the pressure on Mr Dalzell’s workload.

“We have six different patches with a six kilometre drive between the furthest blocks. Turning water on or off used to involve an hour-long round trip. Now it takes a matter of seconds.”

In 2015, Mr Dalzell and his brother expanded into avocados, a move made possible by the upgrade of the irrigation system on the original vineyard blocks.  With less time spent reacting to maintenance issues, he has found the time to establish and manage the new patch.

Adapted from a case study written by Natural Resources SA Murray-Darling Basin.

Australian water markets highlighted at international forum

Screenshot from Water Markets in Australia video.

Agriculture and Water – Key to Feeding the World, was the main theme at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) 2017 held in Germany recently, where Australia’s water markets were promoted as a world-leading initiative.

An Australian delegation, including representatives from the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, attended the Berlin forum along with key international players from politics, industry, science and civil society.

Paul Morris, First Assistant Secretary–Water, features in a video produced for the forum, where he talks about the efficacy of water trading particularly in sustainable water management and productivity.

“Farmers have seen enhanced productivity through water trading and associated improvements in water use efficiency,” Mr Morris said.

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Our irrigated agriculture sector is a significant contributor to Australia’s agricultural production consuming nearly 60 per cent of Australia’s available water.

​“Australia’s water markets are primarily used by the agricultural sector,” Mr Morris said.

“Establishing a market can help ensure water is used in its most productive use,” Mr Morris continued.

Australia’s water markets do not operate as one single national market—they exist as separate catchment-specific markets, sometimes interconnected, and all based on the same common principles for access, transparency and trade.

Most trades take place in the Murray-Darling Basin, with an average water market turnover in the last decade of nearly two billion Australian dollars annually.

“We are seeing these changes in Australia as water moves to production options that have the highest net returns and market opportunities,” Mr Morris said.

With water scarcity being one of the major global challenges of our lifetime, water markets help Australian farmers to achieve sustainable water management while still supporting economic growth.

Find out more about water markets on the department’s website or watch the video  and discover water markets in Australia.​

Irrigation opens new doors for growers

Bay drive outlet actuators automatically open and close gates onto each bay and are connected to a farm radio network that can be remotely monitored and controlled.

New irrigation research offers excellent options for growers to improve efficiency and yield through more precise scheduling.

Last December, a group of cotton growers, irrigators and consultants from northern NSW, Queensland and WA visited southern NSW and northern Victoria looking at different irrigation layouts and automation systems. The tour gave participants an opportunity to observe and understand innovations that maximise efficiencies in water use, energy and labour.

The tour – hosted by NSW Department Primary Industry’s (DPI) Sustaining the Basin: Irrigation Farm Modernisation (STBIFM) program and CottonInfo – visited irrigated dairy, rice and cotton farms.

STBIFM strengthens irrigators’ capacity to increase their water use efficiency and offers opportunities to build irrigators’ capability and knowledge. The program contributes to maintaining or improving irrigation efficiency in northern Murray-Darling Basin communities.

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STBIFM program leader, Michael Grabham, said the tour was a great way for irrigators, irrigation designers and consultants to come together to share ideas.

Most participants said the tour helped them understand automation equipment and how to adapt it for their own use. They also indicated that they would implement this technology, such as different surface irrigation design, remote monitoring and new scheduling practices. 

Ian Hayllor, a flood irrigator from Dalby, Qld using traditional siphons (and a lot of labour), was on the tour to learn how he could use his water more efficiently. After visiting Noel Baxter’s irrigated cotton and maize farm at Berrigan, NSW and seeing the ‘pipe through the bank system’, Mr Hayllor said he was interested in trialling a similar system.

“The reason I like this system is because it is so simple, cheap to install and easy to automate. To trial it on our farm, we would grade our rotabuck areas out, install a distribution pond and put in a pipe through the bank. I can’t believe such a simple system works so well,” Mr Hayllor said.

The federal government has invested $111 million into the STBIFM program. It is funded through the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program and is being rolled out by NSW DPI.

Learn more about the STBIFM program.

National Water Infrastructure Update

Chaffey Dam, New South Wales.

The Australian Government is calling for expressions of interest from state and territory governments and their project partners for water infrastructure construction funding under the $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF) and the $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility (NWILF).

The NWIDF implements the Australian Government’s commitment to start the detailed planning necessary to build or enhance existing water infrastructure, including dams, pipelines or managed aquifer recharge. It’s also part of the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and the Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper.

In addition to the NWIDF the government has established the NWILF to provide state and territory governments with access to concessional loans to co-fund the construction of major water infrastructure projects with a value of over $100 million. The delivery of the NWILF will transfer to the Regional Investment Corporation on its establishment. 

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These programmes will help secure the nation’s water supplies and deliver regional economic development benefits for Australia, while also protecting our environment.

Funding is available to state and territory governments through a continuously open expression of interest process with the first tranche of expressions of interest received as at 16 March 2017 being assessed now.

The Australian Government has already committed $247.5 million in funding to co-fund the construction for the following projects:

  • Rookwood Weir, Queensland ($130 million)
  • Dungowan Dam, New South Wales ($75 million)
  • Macalister Irrigation District modernisation, Victoria ($20 million)
  • South West Loddon pipeline, Victoria ($20 million)
  • McLaren Vale wastewater treatment and storage, South Australia ($2.5 million).

Visit the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources National Water Infrastructure Development Fund and National Water Infrastructure Loan Facility for more information including how state and territory governments can apply.

Word Water Day: take action, save water, reduce waste

Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme helps consumers reduce waste water.

Each year, World Water Day (22 March) explores a key theme in water management and sustainability. This year the event focuses on reducing waste water. There are many actions you can take to reduce waste water and increase efficiency at home and at work.

Avoiding waste includes being aware of how much water our appliances, fixtures and fittings use, and thinking about how we can increase our water efficiency. Buying water efficient products is a great start, as well as being a great way to save money on bills.

Keeping an eye out for the Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) scheme labels when purchasing water-using appliances is a great place to start. It’s simple—the more stars, the less water the product will use and the more money you can save on your bills. Also think about installing a shower timer to keep shower times down.

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By 2021, Australians could save more than $1 billion on our water and energy bills just by using more water-efficient appliances and fixtures. By 2030 it is estimated that using more efficient products will permanently reduce domestic water use by more than 200 billion litres each year. And 99 per cent of the water saved by WELS-rated products is high quality drinking water—meaning less of this valuable commodity is lost down the drain.

We can also avoid waste by making small changes in the way we do things such as fully loading the dishwasher and not rinsing dishes prior to washing. Use short wash cycles for clothes and adjust the water level to suit the size of the load.

Outside the home, reusing water is a great way to reduce waste, such as watering plants with grey water. Using a pool cover will save between 11,000 and 30,000 litres of water per year.

The sustainable management of our water resources is a key priority for the department and an important consideration for all Australians. This World Water Day, have a think about how you can make a difference (and save money at the same time).
For more information about WELS, visit www.waterrating.gov.au.

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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