The New South Wales Irrigators’ Council (NSWIC) is at the helm of a new Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) that aims to boost partnerships with the irrigation sector for environmental water delivery, to public and private lands.

The SDG Action 50827 was added to the UN Water Action Agenda as part of the 2023 UN Water conference in New York.

NSW Irrigators’ Council CEO, Claire Miller, said, “The success of irrigation companies working with environmental water holders in the Murray-Darling Basin already shows this model works.

“We showcased these partnerships in our Working Together document released late last year, and it is great to see the potential for this model being recognised on the world stage.

“With 93 per cent of the Basin’s 30,000 wetlands on private property (largely on farmland), partnerships are the key to wetland conservation and management.

“Working with landholders and irrigation infrastructure operators enables precision environmental watering, including sites that would otherwise miss out even in major floods.

“This shows agricultural production and environmental management can, and need, to co-exist.

As a case study, Murray Irrigation Limited (MIL) has delivered more than 205 gigalitres of environmental water to wetlands, ephemeral creeks and rivers within its footprint since 2001.

MIL is now going further, proposing the Murray Reconnected Floodplains project, which has the potential to rehabilitate and rejuvenate up to 2000 on-farm private wetlands (54,000ha wetland area); 2000km of riparian systems (20,000ha of riparian beds); and 74,000ha of floodplain ecosystems.

“Australia is recognised as a world leader in water management, but to continue this, we need to be at the forefront of contemporary best practice,” Ms Miller said.

“And best practice is shifting towards innovative partnership-based models, particularly through community and private sector collaborations.”

The SDG Action 50827 puts into practice the recommendations of a NSWIC peer-reviewed paper published last year, which highlighted “the emerging paradigm of participatory approaches with private landholders in the conservation and biodiversity fields, and its applicability to water management ‘best practice’”.

“The irrigation industry is leading this work in partnership with environmental water holders to put the best practice theory into practice,” Ms Miller said.

“We hope this can jolt state and federal governments into moving towards these models too – the potential to end the ‘water wars’ once and for all is enormous.

“We are proud to be leading this SDG Action, and congratulate all who have been involved in the great successes so far to get to this point.”


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