Water Matters - Issue 46, July 2018

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Refocus on implementing the Basin Plan

The overriding focus of the Basin Plan remains: striking a balance between access to water for industries, communities and the environment, while protecting the long-term sustainability of our major river system for all Australians.

Compliance, urban infrastructure, environmental works and Indigenous community engagement have all been identified as areas for renewed focus in a package announced by the Australian Government in May.

Details of the new measures include:

  • up to $180 million to help the NSW and Queensland governments implement environmental works and measures
  • a new position of Northern Basin Commissioner expected to commence on 1 October 2018 and to tackle areas including non-compliance
  • $40 million to help Indigenous communities invest in water for cultural and economic activities
  • $20 million to help economic adaptation in communities impacted by the Basin Plan
  • protecting environmental flows, including through compliance with water laws and new technologies to monitor and measure that compliance.

Continue reading about implementing the Basin Plan

According to Richard McLoughlin, who heads a taskforce coordinating the implementation work, the new package focuses on all the critical themes needed to meet the recovery targets—with an emphasis on protecting both our major river system and all of the communities, industries and natural habitats it supports.

‘We are on the home stretch of water recovery to restore Australia’s most important river system to health,’ Mr McLoughlin said.

‘But as we move closer to the overall targets the work becomes harder and the combined commitment of all Australians more critical,’ he said.

‘That’s why communicating the measures and bringing communities on board will be a big part of the final leg of water recovery.

‘We need people in the cities as well as those in regional communities to understand just how important our major river system is to our collective survival.

‘This is our most important food bowl – it provides most of the fresh fruits and vegetables in the diet of many Australians, especially on the east coast.

‘Protecting the value of this irrigated agriculture, as well as conserving the water resources that underpin it, is in the best interests of everyone.

‘Everybody stands to gain from a healthy river system and conversely we all lose without it.’

The Basin Plan, which came into effect in 2012, represents a significant and comprehensive review of water in the Basin, to define its best management for the 21st century.

The overarching aim of the plan is to strike a balance between access to water for Basin communities and provision of adequate water for the environment.

$1.5 billion Murray–Darling Basin program launched

Water recovered through the program will be used to increase environmental outcomes in the Basin.

The Australian Government has launched the Murray–Darling Basin Water Infrastructure Program, funding activities across the basin to recover water for the environment.

Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources David Littleproud said the program is a vital part of the Basin Plan to restore the health of the Murray–Darling Basin, while protecting Basin communities and their economies.

He said this $1.5 billion investment ‘seeks 450 gigalitres of water which would be delivered with neutral or positive social and economic impacts.’

Positive impacts include contributions to the wellbeing of communities through supporting local employment, improved financial returns for farmers, new trade opportunities and local investment.

Continue reading about $1.5 billion Murray–Darling Basin program

According to Paul Morris, head of Water Division at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, the government is seeking tenders from organisations or individuals with water efficiency project proposals for urban, industrial, off-farm and metering activities; and for on-farm proposals in Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory.

‘There is also a tender open seeking delivery partners. Delivery partners are organisations that provide project management and implementation services for water rights holders wanting to improve the water efficiency of their infrastructure,’ Mr Morris said.

‘The water that is recovered by this program will be used by the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder for environmental watering purposes to improve and restore key environmental sites throughout the basin,’ he said.

By restoring natural variability in flows, environmental water is reconnecting rivers and their wetlands and floodplains, as well as providing food, habitat and breeding opportunities for native fish, waterbirds and vegetation. Read more about the positive impacts of environmental watering.

To find out more about the new program, visit Murray–Darling Basin Water Infrastructure Program. Read about the open tenders on the department's website.

Tenders now open—urban, industrial, off-farm, metering and on-farm efficiency projects

Warren Doecke on his dairy farm in South Australia where he manages about 360 acres of irrigated pasture. Warren received funding for water infrastructure upgrades through the Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency program, the predecessor to the MDB Water Infrastructure Program. On-farm works included the installation of a new pipe and riser system and lining a water delivery channel (pictured).

The Australian Government is calling for tenders as part of the new Murray–Darling Basin Water Infrastructure Program.

The government is seeking tenders from organisations and individuals with water-saving projects valued over $1 million.

According to the head of the Water Division at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Paul Morris, the tender seeks projects that will save water, such as upgrading urban water infrastructure or processing facilities, and modernising irrigation networks.

‘We also want to hear from water holders interested in undertaking on-farm water infrastructure projects in Queensland, South Australia and the Australian Capital Territory*,’ Mr Morris said.

‘Tenders are also sought from organisations who can act as delivery partners. They will work with water holders to develop and deliver water-saving projects.’

Successful program participants will transfer an agreed volume of water savings to the Commonwealth for environmental watering purposes in the Basin. Any additional water savings generated by the infrastructure upgrades can be retained by the program participant.

Continue reading about tenders—urban, industrial, off-farm, metering and on-farm efficiency projects

Funding of up to 1.75 times the market value of the water savings will be available for each project.

These tenders close 5 pm AEST, 7 August 2018. There will be further opportunities to tender, with infrastructure funding to continue through to 2024.

To find out more, visit Murray-Darling Basin Water Infrastructure Program.

*All projects under $1 million must apply through a Delivery Partner.

Chinese delegation examines Australia's world-class trading system

Richard McLoughlin, Assistant Secretary Water Division (left) and Mr Zhang Bin, CWEX Director General, co-chairing a meeting during the visit.

In May this year, a high-level Chinese delegation conducted a study tour in Australia to learn what makes Australia’s water-trading practices so good, and to show their new water-trading platform.

Over five days, the representatives from the Chinese Ministry of Water Resources, the China Water Exchange (CWEX) and water industry travelled with Australian business representatives across the Murray–Darling’s southern Basin, from Melbourne to Canberra, visiting infrastructure operators, irrigators, water markets regulators and water broker services.

Richard McLoughlin, Assistant Secretary in Water Division at the Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, welcomed the delegation to Canberra and chaired policy discussions. 

CWEX is a national-level water rights trading platform initiated and established by the Chinese government in June 2016.

Continue reading about Chinese delegation examines Australia's world-class trading system

‘CWEX are operating a live water trading platform, so they came to Australia with this practical experience behind them. They don’t need the basics—they want improvements and solutions to their trading systems,’ Mr McLoughlin said.

‘Their interest in Australia’s water markets experience and our trading technologies shows Australian products are sought after.’

According to Carol Grossman, Director Water Efficiency Labelling of Water Division, the interest in trading parallels China’s interest in Australia’s Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards scheme.

‘A Chinese delegation visited Australia last September to draw on Australia’s experiences before the launch of their own efficiency labelling scheme, which mirrors Australia’s,’ Dr Grossman said.

‘Both countries share an interest in reviewing and continually improving their water efficiency labelling schemes. Australian businesses are well placed to show how we have approached this problem and to offer services,’ she said.

The study tour was hosted and funded by the Australian Water Partnership under the auspice of the Australia-China Memorandum of Understanding on Water Cooperation, overseen by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

The department looks forward to continued close collaboration with the Chinese government on water matters of mutual interest.

World's best practice water delivery in NSW

Hay Irrigation’s new pump system provides a sustainable and water-efficient future. Image courtesy of Hay Private Irrigation District.

The Hay irrigation district of NSW now has a world’s best practice method of water delivery following major irrigation upgrades to replace an open earthen channel system with a piped system.  

The Hay project received over $10.2 million in funding under the Australian Government’s Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program (PIIOP) in NSW to update the 100-year-old system and enable its sustainable future.

Head of the Irrigation Efficiency team at the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources, Rod Shaw, said it is a great example of a water efficiency project that supports the triple bottom line of environmental, economic and social benefits.

‘The new system will enable local businesses to grow a greater range of high-value crops using less water,’ Mr Shaw said.

Continue reading about world's best practice water delivery in NSW

‘The district’s irrigators can now allocate water to their crops as they need it, allowing precision irrigation with accurate timing to maximise yields,’ he said.

‘The project provides a more efficient and effective way of delivering water, including upgraded regulating and pumping infrastructure. This has resulted in the pipeline now operating 24/7 all year round.’

Mr Shaw said that importantly the project is also helping to sustain the economic and social fabric of the Hay irrigation district—the oldest in NSW—and the broader Hay community.

‘The modernisation project has already provided a strong economic stimulus to the local community with 66 per cent of the total project funding being used to procure goods and services for the project locally,’ Mr Shaw said.

‘It has also provided a much-improved lifestyle for local landholders and their families by reducing their irrigation workload. Automation and the remote access capability of the new system means farmers have access to real-time data and remote control over the irrigation system even when they are away from their farms,’ he said.

‘This replaces a system of rotational water delivery that required manual operation of controls along water delivery channels and manual manipulation of hoses to get water from channels onto fields.’

PIIOP is one of the major programs delivered under the Inter-Governmental Agreement on Murray–Darling Basin Reform and will have long-term environmental benefits. It will return 2,549 ML of water savings to the Commonwealth for environmental purposes.

Mr Shaw said PIIOP ‘provides funding to private irrigation infrastructure operators to improve the efficiency and productivity of water use and management, both off- and on-farm.’

‘Although PIIOP funding has all been allocated, this is exactly the kind of project we are planning to undertake as part of the new generation Murray–Darling Basin Water Infrastructure Program which is now open for tenders,’ he said. 

‘If you are a water holder interested in undertaking irrigation infrastructure efficiency off- or on-farm, we encourage you to make a proposal.’

To find out more about the Hay Private Irrigators District project, you can read the final project report.

In other water news issued from the Australian Government:

Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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