Extra water for SA irrigators

Discussions have begun on the Murray-Darling Basin Plan and the delivery of an extra 450GL of water back into the River Murray.

The 450GL will be recovered through investment in on-farm and off-farm irrigation efficiency and productivity improvements.

South Australian Minister for Sustainability, Environment and Conservation, Ian Hunter, has met with Riverland irrigators and farmers to discuss the basin plan agreement that returns water to the environment, which aims to benefit irrigation communities and deliver positive socio-economic results.

The 2012 Murray-Darling Basin Plan aims to recover the equivalent of 2750GL of water a year by 2019 and an additional 450GL by 2024.

The South Australian River Murray Sustainability (SARMS) Program is an efficiency program that aims to boost regional productivity and save water for the environment.

The $265 million SARMS Program is funded through the 2012 plan negotiations and will return 40GL of water entitlements to the system by 2019.

Mr Hunter said, “The extra 450GL must be delivered, on top of the 2750GL target, as promised – this is crucial to ensuring a healthy River Murray.

“South Australia has shown that well-designed efficiency programs like SARMS can deliver jobs and investment for industries and communities, and also return water to the environment.

“Upstream states need not throw their hands in the air and say it’s all too hard – they need to roll their sleeves up and work hard, and there is more than $1.7 billion available to help them.”

SARMS investment has increased employment opportunities through funding 213 projects, contributing toward the creation of more than 1,500 jobs in the River Murray region.

The Renmark Irrigation Trust has received $16.3 million as part of SARMS. Through the design of the SARMS Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP), this investment is opening up new irrigation areas intending to increase regional productivity.

Renmark Irrigation Trust Presiding Member, Peter Duggin, said, “Giving back water was something that needed to be done for the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, and we chose to see it as an opportunity rather than a risk.

“Together with the SA Government and the wider River Murray stakeholders we explored ways to encourage irrigators to operate as businesses, rather than just as irrigators, and to explore what they could do to maximise their businesses and maximise what they could do for the state.

“The SARMS funding has allowed Renmark Irrigation Trust to expand its network and advance other related projects that would be financially viable, retain some economies of scale well into the future and provide benefits to existing members through improved water availability, reliability and efficiency.”

Pyap Produce citrus grower, Tim Arnold, said, “We received funding of $1.4 million from the SARMS Program for a range of projects, with $750,000 towards netting our orchards and crops.

“In the first year since the nets were installed we have been able to reduce the effects of strong winds – reducing wind speeds by about 50 per cent. This has led to a decrease in evapotranspiration and fruit damage, and provides longer periods of optimal spraying conditions.

“Until SARMS, orchard netting at this scale was largely untried within the Riverland region.”

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