New investment in fish-protection screens will ensure the protection of both aquatic life and farming equipment in a $20 million New South Wales State Government initiative.

Up to 150 pumps on the Lower Mehi and Barwon-Darling rivers will be screened under the program, with sites selected based on benefits to local and regional fish populations, value for money and the potential to support wider uptake.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries will manage the installation process, in partnership with Water Infrastructure NSW, and will work around business and watering schedules to ensure there is no interruption to supply.

NSW Minister for Lands and Water, Kevin Anderson, said Round 1 of the $20 million screening program is now open with farmers able to apply for grants for new and innovative technology.

“Healthy rivers lead to a healthy environment and healthy farms. Native fish are a major indicator of a healthy river systems which is why modern fish screens are so important,” Mr Anderson said.

“These fish screens not only keep native fish safe and healthy, they protect important irrigation infrastructure used by our farmers, reducing expensive shutdowns and machinery repairs.”

Local businesses, where practicable, will be engaged to assist with the screen installations, which could improve employment in the region.

NSW Minister for Agriculture, Dugald Saunders, said the new technology would protect native fish and benefit farmers who install it.

“This project is about supporting the innovators who want to try this important practice for irrigation and water use,” Mr Saunders said.

“These screens will protect millions of native fish, as well as the environment, improving recreational fishing and deliver cleaner water, which is good for fish and good for our farms.”

The $20 million fish screening program is part of the Northern Basin Toolkit that is funded by the Commonwealth Government and delivered by the NSW Government.

Expressions of interest for Round 1 of the program will remain open until Wednesday, 31 August 2022 and may be submitted via the Fish Screens Australia website.

FEATURE IMAGE: A fish protection screen installed on a NSW river. Photo: DPI Fisheries.

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