The Riverina region of Deniliquin is set to receive $33.5 million from the government to improve its irrigation infrastructure so that more water can be delivered to the environment.
This investment into the Restoring Murray Waterways project is part of the government’s commitment to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan (MDBP), which aims to provide 450 gigalitres (GL) of water through efficiency measures.
A recent Productivity Commission report found that the MDBP would not be able to complete the targets set by the government in 2012 “on time or on budget”. So far, only 26 GL of water has been contributed via efficiency measures, and there is a potential 315 GL shortfall on the plan’s core target of delivering 2750 GL a year.
Deniliquin’s network of irrigation channels is the focus of this funding boost, an area managed by Australia’s largest private water supply network, Murray Irrigation Limited.
The infrastructure project is set to collaborate with the company in creating additional escape structures so more water can be dispersed throughout other areas of the region’s environment.
“This project is a great example of how we can make sure we get the most out of the water we already hold and use it to better look after the environment,” Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek said.
“Delivering the Basin Plan will take governments, industry and community working together. Congratulations and thank you to Murray Irrigation Limited for their commitment to better delivering for our environment.”
Along with escape structures, fish-friendly access crossings and an upgrade of the area’s existing fences, the project will look for avenues to expand. Its goal is to restore local creeks and wetlands so the future generations of communities and irrigators who depend on the basin have a sustainable river that is more in sync with the natural flow of water.
Water delivered by the project will be accessible to public and private land, so irrigators who have historically been the sole users of the system’s precious resource are not the only ones in the region to benefit. The new project also hopes to improve the scarce engagement with First Nations people, which was revealed in the Productivity Commission’s interim report.
“It is the culmination of a long and focused process of engagement with local landholders and multiple government agencies,” Noel Baxter, chairman of Murray Irrigation Limited, said.
“We are pleased the Federal Government recognises the value of this project in terms of improved ecological outcomes, local jobs creation, partnerships with First Nations communities and, importantly, its potential contribution to the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
“We believe there is potential, in the long-term, to upscale this initiative to connect creeks and wetlands throughout our Murray landscape. This will revitalise our region, achieve environmental outcomes and also ensure the sustainability of our water delivery network which underpins the economy and jobs in the Murray region.”
As the country expects to enter another drought period, Mr Baxter said he looks forward to working more with the Commonwealth on exploiting the Murray Irrigation channel system’s “unique” ability to provide environmental outcomes “to the right place at the right time”.