The Federal Government has announced $35.1 million for Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) to deliver infrastructure upgrades that use existing water more effectively as well as boost the capacity of channel escapes.

The investment is predicted to broaden the MIL customer base and reduce the operating and maintenance costs for 2,200 irrigators.

Federal Minister for Resources and Water, Keith Pitt, said, “This is about making our available water work harder and smarter.

“This project will also create 256 direct and indirect local jobs in construction, seven jobs permanently in operations, as well as providing agricultural and environmental benefits by getting water to new areas and at new times.

“Increasing the capacity of the existing channel escapes will mean environmental water can fill wetlands and creeks that would otherwise only get wet during large over bank flows.

“The project funds water infrastructure upgrades to achieve better environmental outcomes in the region – improving environmental water delivery across 372km of ephemeral creeks and up to 100 ephemeral wetlands – important environmental assets in the Edward Wakool river system.

“This is the sort of project that demonstrates that water recovery isn’t the only way we can achieve good environmental outcomes and the Australian Government is open to innovative approaches to improve river and wetland health.

“We put an end to buybacks because of the damage they have done to regions like this – stretching beyond the individual farmgate and impacting on the efficiency or whole irrigation networks.”

Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, said communities like those part of the Murray Irrigation System had done the hard yards through buybacks to put water in the hands of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder.

“Production changes, reduced inflows and untargeted buybacks have reduced water delivery in the MIL by 40 per cent in the past 30 years, leaving valuable water infrastructure stranded for farmers and environmental water holders,” Ms Ley said.

“Increasing the capacity to deliver larger volumes of environmental water through the network is like adding another 100 users, given the scale of potential water use.

“This project will help us make water for the environment work just as hard as farmers work their water.”

Senator Perin Davey explained that with 98 per cent of water recovered, it was time to focus on projects that delivered environmental outcomes.

“There’s been so much emphasis on achieving water recovery targets – it’s time we also focused on supporting the CEWH to use the available water to best effect,” Ms Davey said.

“In this area, projects like this that enhance Basin Plan outcomes in concert with productive agriculture will see real improvements in the local environment as well as providing downstream benefits.

“This, combined with our commitment to looking at improving water management efficiency through the Off-farm Efficiency Program show we are committed to delivering the Basin Plan in a way that will help agriculture become a $100 billion industry by 2030 as well as improving environmental outcomes.

“We committed to putting communities back at the heart of the Basin Plan and projects like these are a clear demonstration of that commitment.”

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