The Federal and Victorian Governments have signed a funding agreement, allowing construction to begin on the $116 million Western Irrigation Network project.

The project is designed to deliver a new, secure source of water for large-scale agricultural use.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack, said the Federal Government had committed $48 million to the irrigation project.

“This project will send water to where it is needed the most – to our hard-working farmers,” Mr McCormack said.

“We are committed to delivering water infrastructure projects for rural and regional communities to support growth in Australian agriculture, increase water security, build resilience to drought and support regional prosperity.

“This project is part of the Liberal and Nationals Government’s $3.5 billion investment through the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund to deliver the National Water Grid.”

The new large-scale irrigation infrastructure project will connect three existing recycled water sources at Sunbury, Melton and Bacchus Marsh to supply a new irrigation district – the Parwan Balliang Irrigation District (PBID), 15km south of Bacchus Marsh.

It will involve construction of approximately 59km of pipeline, 2.1 gigalitres combined water storages and three high-capacity pump stations. 

Combined with existing storages, the connected network will provide a total of 3.3 gigalitre capacity, with the potential for future expansion. 

Victorian Minister for Water, Lisa Neville, said the WIN project recognised the transformative benefits of accessing a reliable, year-round supply of water.  

“The Western Irrigation Network project addresses the challenges of a rapidly growing population and an increased volume of wastewater – using cost-effective, recycled water to enable expansion of local irrigated agriculture,” Ms Neville said.

“The project also protects the environment for future generations by avoiding excess recycled water releases into local waterways.

“We’ve already made a great start on this project and we’re pleased the Australian Government is joining us with additional funding to ensure a reliable, cost-effective water supply for the region into the future.”

Senator for Victoria, Sarah Henderson, said the signing of the funding agreement demonstrated the commitment of the Australian and Victorian Governments to a project that would benefit local growers and irrigators.

“We are investing in the next generation of water infrastructure and projects such as the WIN will not only increase water security, but will help grow Australian agriculture,” Senator Henderson said.

The $116 million WIN project is co-funded by Western Water, with contributions from farmers.

Western Water Managing Director, Jeff Rigby, said after years in the planning, the WIN Project would help manage the increased volume of wastewater predicted as a result of unprecedented urban growth in the west of Melbourne, providing a solution that makes the most of recycled water resources well into the future.

“Recycled water, produced at sewage treatment plants, is suitable for a range of non-drinking purposes including irrigation of certain crops,” Mr Rigby said.

Works for the WIN project will start this year and the network is expected to supply Class C recycled water to farmers by mid-2022.

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