Highlights from World Water Day: 
Murrumbidgee Irrigation

Murrumbidgee Irrigation shared how they deliver environmental flows to several sites, including Tuckerbil Swamp and the Ramsar listed Fivebough swamp, which have been critical in supporting the Australasian bittern breeding.  

Murrumbidgee Irrigation also shared news of a local orchardist, Orlando (Ronnie) Calabria – an 81-year-old orchardist – who has planted 30,000 trees in his lifetime to restore the local environment.

Photo courtesy of Murrumbidgee Irrigation

 

Highlights from World Water Day: Ricegrowers’ Association

The Ricegrowers Association (RGA) showed how the Australian rice industry is a trailblazer for sustainable irrigation farming, with Australian rice growers using 50% less water to grow one kilo of rice than the world average, and are recognised worldwide for growing high quality rice varieties suitable to Australia’s climate.

The farms where rice is grown host an enormous diversity of wildlife, including threatened or endangered species such as the critically endangered Australasian Bittern and Southern Bell Frog. One of Australia’s most endangered birds, the Australasian Bittern, otherwise known as “the Bunyip bird”, is rarely seen and is a globally threatened species. 

The Bitterns in Rice Project [1]  seeks to bridge the gap between agriculture and wildlife conservation in the Murray-Darling Basin. Rice growers together with scientists are supporting this project. From this project, we have discovered that there is a breeding population into the hundreds using NSW Riverina rice crops as breeding habitat. It is estimated that there is only about 2500 individuals remaining in three countries: Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia.

EnvIrrigators campaign shows environmental stewardship of irrigation farmers

By Christine Freak

For World Water Day (March 22nd), the NSW Irrigators’ Council launched our EnvIrrigators campaign.

The campaign celebrated irrigation farmers’ environmental stewardship and contributions to water efficient, and thus sustainable, food and fibre production.

The campaign highlighted tremendous examples of irrigation farmers carefully managing their local environment in NSW.

  • Many of our farmers have wetlands on their property and work with the Office of Environment and Heritage to water the area to make a drought refuge for wildlife.
  • We have irrigation farmers in NSW undertaking Native Re-vegetation Programs on their farms to promote biodiversity.
  • We have irrigation schemes who deliver environmental water to valuable wetlands.
  • Furthermore, our irrigation farmers in Australia are some of the most water efficient in the world.

 

Highlights from World Water Day: Coleambally Irrigation Corporation Limited

CICL has been working with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) to use their water channel infrastructure to deliver environmental water to natural wetlands in the Coleambally area since 2015. CICL delivers environmental water to a number of native wetlands located on private property that have been otherwise disconnected from naturally occurring periodic water events.

By using their channel infrastructure, environmental water can be delivered to sites which otherwise would only ever be inundated in extremely wet years. These sites are privately owned, and the areas watered are being voluntarily managed by the owners for wildlife conservation.

The primary focus of OEH’s program in the area is the delivery of water to the Wargam Swamps in the south-western part of the CICL area, with water supplied via the West Coleambally Channel. These swamps are located 69km north of Deniliquin and 81km south-west of Coleambally and provide an important refuge habitat in the agricultural landscape for water birds.

CICL is currently partnering with OEH through their Saving Our Species initiative to secure the Southern Bell Frog population in the wild. CICL has also commissioned two field guides for native plants and birds of the Coleambally Irrigation District.

CICL has been working with the Bitterns in Rice team [1]  to monitor bittern breeding in the area and to help develop recommendations for bittern-friendly rice farming. More information about the first Bittern to be tracked by satellites as part of the Bitterns in Rice project, can be found here. [2

Coleambally Irrigation Area has undergone modernisation through a Land and Water Management Program, which is a joint government and community investment in improved land and water management to preserve the environmental sustainability. [3

Editorial by Andrew Gregson

We’ve just concluded our first Conference. Held at Old Parliament House in Canberra, it attracted great numbers and some sensational international keynote speakers. The theme of the event was Perspectives on Irrigated Agriculture and was designed to prod people – in the words of Professor Tony Allan – to “think differently”.
Why “think differently”? Simple, really; a different perspective on a problem is a great way to find a solution that in hindsight might be obvious. It is very simple to be caught up in the day-today issues in which we find ourselves dealing. To occasionally take the time to step back, look from a different angle and to view the bigger picture can be most rewarding. It allows us to refocus, to see where it is that we’re trying to go and to fashion a path to get there.
The last session of the day was titled “What Have We Learned”. Its aim was to ensure that people captured something from the event; that they identified at least something in the day that was worth remembering and acting upon. I know I certainly did. In listening to the views of our two international keynote speakers – Professor Tony Allan from Kings College of London and Mike Wade, the Executive Director of the California Farm Water Coalition – I quickly realised that we’re not alone. Irrigators in Australia are facing many of the same issues that those in California and Europe are facing. We’re all dealing with it in subtly different ways, which is ideal; there is much for us to learn from others. What works in dealing with public perceptions in California might well work here. At very least, it’s worth a try. A big realisation for me, though, came from Professor Allan. Like all good realisations, it’s one that is perfectly obvious in hindsight. The demand for water is not driven by irrigators – it’s driven by consumers. We grow what consumers demand. It is the consumer, then, that must take at least part of the responsibility for the use of water in agriculture.

Read the full Productive Water Journal from Winter 2013 [HERE]