Water Matters - Issue 49, September 2019

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$1.5 billion Water Efficiency Program now open

The $1.5 billion Water Efficiency Program is now open—eligible participants can register their project proposals directly or through a delivery partner.

The Australian Government is funding $1.5 billion in water-saving projects across the Murray–Darling Basin under the department’s newly-relaunched Water Efficiency Program.

Paul Morris, head of the Department of Agriculture’s Water division, said water saving projects funded under the program would help water users in the Basin modernise their infrastructure.

‘This will help them utilise water more efficiently and improve productivity’ Mr Morris said.

‘As agreed by the Basin government ministers last December, all projects funded by the program must deliver a neutral or positive economic outcome to communities.’

The program will fund water saving projects by agricultural businesses, as well as water infrastructure providers, local governments and councils, industries, property developers and public utilities.


Continue reading about $1.5 billion Water Efficiency Program now open

Applicants must be:

  • either permanent water entitlement holders in the Basin, or water users in the case of towns or industries in the Basin
  • looking to modernise their water infrastructure or technology, whether urban, industrial or agricultural.

Successful applicants will receive funding up to 1.75 times the market value of the water they save.

Participants in the Water Efficiency Program’s pilot phase have already seen increased efficiency and water savings. Their stories can be seen in new case study videos, featured in this edition of Water Matters, as well as on our website.

The savings, of 450 gigalitres by 2024, will add to the 700 gigalitres returned so far by water efficiency projects under the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

Savings returned to the environment will help make the Murray–Darling river system sustainable and healthy, ensuring our economy, food security and communities will be strong into the future.

To read more about the relaunched program, including a full list of eligibility requirements, visit the Water Efficiency Program page.


Webinar: learn more about the Water Efficiency Program

UPDATE AS AT 6 SEPTEMBER: This webinar has now concluded. To get the transcript, and to subscribe to email updates about future webinars, email our Water Efficiency program team.

You can register for the Water Efficiency Program webinar now.

The department will hold a webinar on 5 September 2019, 12 noon AEST, on eligibility requirements for the new Water Efficiency Program.

The webinar will include information on eligibility for:

  • project partners (for projects valued over $1 million)
  • delivery partners (who provide project management services to assist individuals and business with proposals for water efficiency projects).

The webinar will also outline the project registration process for project partners.

Register for the webinar online.



Reflecting on seven years of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan

Communities and river systems will benefit from water recovered by the Murray–Darling Basin Plan.

Seven years into its life, the Murray–Darling Basin Plan is closing in on its water recovery goals, with almost 2,100 gigalitres of water secured for the environment.

Paul Morris, head of the Water division at the Department of Agriculture, said the water recovered, as well as 450 gigalitres more from the relaunched Water Efficiency Program, would go towards restoring the health of river systems within the basin.

‘This will help replenish them to a healthy and sustainable level for the environment. Healthy waterways also support the communities and industries that rely on them,’ Mr Morris said.

‘Over these seven years we have seen the Basin governments working together in an historic agreement to manage the Basin’s river systems.’


Continue reading about reflecting on seven years of the Murray–Darling Basin Plan

Each Basin government has an agreement in place with the Murray–Darling Basin Authority to ensure limits on water use are in place, to protect the water that needs to be left for the environment to remain healthy.

Water Ministers from each government have agreed on a socio-economic test to assess future efficiency projects. This will ensure each project funded has a neutral or positive economic outcome for its local community.

‘We are carrying out this work with transparency and accountability, so that water users have full confidence in the Basin Plan’s progress,’ Mr Morris said.

‘The government is listening to the concerns of irrigators and communities about the transparency and operation of the water market, and the socio-economic impacts of the Basin Plan,’ Mr Morris said.

‘The government announced the ACCC Review of Water Markets and an independent panel to undertake an assessment of social and economic conditions in irrigated communities across the Basin.’

The department calls on all jurisdictions to deliver the Basin Plan in full and without delay to provide certainty to communities.

‘The complexity of this work is part of the challenge, but we will balance the need for urgency with the need for high quality work and community consultation,’ Mr Morris said.

‘We must build on the progress and momentum of the last seven years to ensure Australians enjoy the benefits of the Murray–Darling Basin for years to come.’

To find out more about the Murray–Darling Basin Plan and the water recovery to date, explore the Murray–Darling Basin Authority report cards.


Water efficiency projects boosting farms, rivers and communities

Stuart Pettigrew (pictured) upgraded his citrus farm’s water infrastructure through funding from the Water Efficiency Program’s pilot phase.

Water efficiency projects funded by the Australian Government are helping farm businesses save water and improve efficiency on their properties.

Case study videos released by the Department of Agriculture alongside the relaunch of the Water Efficiency Program tell the stories of farmers who took part in the pilot phase of the program.

Citrus farmer Stuart Pettigrew upgraded his farm’s irrigation infrastructure thanks to funding he received in the pilot phase of the Water Efficiency Program. As part of his project he also switched to closer planting, and installed a solar-powered fertiliser and filtration system.

Mr Pettigrew said that the new systems and farming practices will improve the productivity of his orchard.


Continue reading about water efficiency projects boosting farms, rivers and communities

‘The benchmark in areas like this used to be 20 to 25 tonnes per hectare of marketable fruit. Well, we’re aiming for 45 to 50 tonne of fruit per hectare,’ Mr Pettigrew said.

This increase will lead to better profits for his business, as well as reduced labour thanks to increased automation. The project saved 12 megalitres of water that will be returned to the environment, and help preserve the Murray–Darling Basin river system.

Mr Pettigrew said that he loves the river, as do many growers in the area, but he also has a commercial interest in making sure rivers are healthy so that he can continue his production.

‘I think stewardship of the river goes hand in hand with sustainable agriculture,’ Mr Pettigrew said.

‘And now we’re seeing areas that were abandoned five years ago now coming back into production, and that’s got to be good for rural communities like this one.

‘It’s all about a balance. I think these programs are good to meet that balance between environment and production.’

Similarly, wine grape and date farmer Dave Reilly upgraded from 1970s irrigation technology to state-of-the-art equipment, increasing efficiency and returning 44.5 megalitres to the environment.

Mr Reilly said his old pipes couldn’t sustain the pressure needed to water his entire farm effectively.

‘As soon as we put through more than 28 psi we were having trouble with the line blowing out,’ Mr Reilly said.

Now, probes that monitor moisture in his soil and deliver water when it’s needed mean that water isn’t wasted. New pump equipment and pipelines also mean that water is delivered more quickly, over the distances it needs to go, without the damage to which the old pipes were prone.

The new infrastructure and technology on Mr Pettigrew’s and Mr Reilly’s farms were funded through the South Australian Murray–Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board during the pilot phase of the Water Efficiency Program.

To watch their stories, as well as others, watch the videos on the successes of water efficiency projects funded by the Australian Government.


Scheme helping thousands of farmers to deliver water to livestock

Rebates are available until mid-2021 for water infrastructure that will help farmers provide water where it’s needed in times of drought.

Thousands of drought-affected livestock farmers have been able to upgrade water infrastructure on their farms to better deliver water to their animals, with millions of dollars still available.

The $50 million On-Farm Emergency Water Infrastructure Rebate Scheme allows eligible farmers in the grazing industry to claim up to 25 per cent of expenses associated with buying and installing water infrastructure on their farms, up to a maximum amount agreed by the state government delivering the funding.

Paul Morris, head of the Water division at the Department of Agriculture, spoke of the success of the scheme so far in delivering rebates to farmers in drought-affected areas.

‘To date, over 2000 eligible primary producers have shared the benefit of over $9.1 million in rebates,’ Mr Morris said.


Continue reading about scheme helping thousands of farmers to deliver water to livestock

Recipients of rebates so far have installed troughs, water tanks and stock water bores to ensure the welfare of their animals during the drought. Other expenses eligible for funding include water pumps, electronic systems and power supplies involved in water delivery, as well as desilting dams.

A total of $50 million will be available until mid-2021. Eligible graziers are urged to take the opportunity to upgrade their water infrastructure so that their animals and their business can weather what’s to come.

‘As the current drought conditions continue to worsen across the country and exacerbate the hardships already faced by those in the agriculture sector, I encourage all eligible primary producers requiring emergency watering infrastructure to apply for a rebate through the relevant state government agency,’ Mr Morris said.

All states and territories are now on board as delivery partners for the scheme. Rebates cover eligible expenses incurred since 1 July 2018. Information on eligibility and how to apply in your state is available at the scheme's web page.


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Last reviewed: 4 November 2019
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