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Water Matters - Issue 42, June 2017

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Case studies in pipeline highlight pilot irrigation program in South Australia

Welding of water pipes in Murray Bridge SA, upgrade funded through the COFFIE SA pilot.

With the pilot of the new irrigation upgrade program, Commonwealth On-Farm Further Irrigation Efficiency (COFFIE), well underway in South Australia, the Australian Government is developing film-based case studies to showcase what the program offers.

The COFFIE program allows irrigators to modernise their on-farm irrigation systems in exchange for water savings to the environment. Key program highlights include a broad scope of eligible irrigation infrastructure and other activities which improve farm productivity, the ability to submit proposals at any time during the program and a 10 business day turnaround for approval.

The South Australian (SA) pilot is the first stage in implementation of COFFIE, and currently has over a dozen approved projects being implemented and many more in the pipeline. SA River Murray water irrigators are encouraged to apply.

The first approved COFFIE SA pilot project near Murray Bridge will be the subject of the first case study. The project works, which include channel lining and construction of a new pipe and riser system, were filmed over a week in early May 2017. The case study when finalised will incorporate video, drone and time lapse footage of the works and the property, and focus on the irrigator’s experience of the program and anticipated benefits from the project.


Continue reading about case studies in pilot irrigation program in South Australia

Case studies such as this one will provide valuable insights into the COFFIE program and highlight the wide variety of infrastructure upgrade options eligible for funding.

COFFIE is the first in the next generation of Australian Government programs to support improvements in irrigation infrastructure, and complements existing programs across the Murray–Darling Basin. With an attractive, publicly available water value coupled with a fast approval process, COFFIE builds on the strengths of previous on-farm programs. The SA pilot is the first stage in implementation of COFFIE, and will help test and refine the program design to ensure economic, social and environmental benefits are maximised.

Other on-farm irrigation programs have seen genuine benefits at the farm gate—like the flexibility to grow higher-value, greater-yield crops; the ability to grow more with lower water allocations; and sometimes receiving allocations in dry years when they otherwise wouldn’t. The saved irrigation water has been returned to the Murray-Darling Basin to help improve the health of the river system.

COFFIE is expected to achieve similar benefits, and have positive flow on effects for the wider Basin community.

For more information contact the programme Delivery Partner, the South Australian Murray–Darling Basin (SAMDB) Natural Resources Management Board, through Natural Resources SAMDB on (08) 8532 9100.


Industry compliance and Australia’s water rating scheme

It’s important to know your role in the WELS scheme.

If you’ve shopped for domestic water-using appliances or fixtures in the last 10 years or so, you will have noticed the water-rating labels featuring blue stars positioned on the front of water using appliances. These are part of Australia’s water efficiency rating scheme, known as the WELS scheme.

The scheme is administered by the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources in accordance with standards set under the national Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards Act 2005. The WELS Regulator is the First Assistant Secretary of the department’s water division, Mr Paul Morris.

Australia’s water rating scheme, Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS), has recently published an Infringement Notice Statement, which clarifies when infringement notices will be given, and the rights and obligations of a person when they receive one.

 “Industry compliance is vital for the integrity of the scheme and to make sure consumers can have confidence in the water rating labels. The department, on behalf of the WELS Regulator, is working hard to achieve this compliance in a number of ways” said Mr Morris.

Continue reading about WELS compliance

"The department encourages businesses including manufacturers, suppliers and retailers to comply with their legal obligations through collaboration and communication” continued Mr Morris.

“There is also a range of enforcement actions available when an educational approach hasn’t worked. One option is to give one or more infringement notices to those who haven’t complied with the law” said Mr Morris.

Penalties for a single infringement notice range from $540 to $1,080 for an individual, and $2,700 to $5,400 for a body corporate. The WELS Compliance and Enforcement Policy 2017 sets out the approach taken by the WELS Regulator to make appropriate decisions on compliance and enforcement actions and to maximise compliance with the WELS Act.

WELS is Australia’s urban water-saving scheme that specifies and enforces efficiency standards and labels on water-using appliances, fixtures and fittings, helping consumers to save money on their household bills. The scheme also encourages advances in and adoption of water-saving technologies.

Currently the scheme covers toilets, clothes washing machines, dishwashers, urinals, taps, showers and flow controllers. We all have a responsibility to use Australia’s water wisely and reduce consumption – it’s our most precious resource.

To understand your role in the WELS scheme, visit www.waterrating.gov.au.


Public consultation: Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan

Flowing bore into an open drain in Queensland, 1999. Photo courtesy: GABCC.

A new draft Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan is being developed to guide governments, water users and other stakeholders in the management of the Basin’s water resources over a 15 year period. 

Have your say—a public consultation process on the new draft plan will occur in late 2017.

The new draft plan will provide a framework to guide the actions of governments and Great Artesian Basin Stakeholders in their endeavour to achieve economic, environmental, cultural and social outcomes for the Great Artesian Basin and its users.

The Australian and Great Artesian Basin governments and the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee are working together to develop the new draft plan. National organisations, landholders, water users and other stakeholders will have the chance to contribute their views and expertise during the public consultation period.


Continue reading about public consultation: Great Artesian Basin Strategic Management Plan

The Great Artesian Basin is one of the largest underground water reservoirs in the world. It underlies approximately 22 per cent of Australia, occupying an area of over 1.7 million square kilometres beneath the arid and semi-arid parts of Queensland, New South Wales, South Australia and the Northern Territory.

The first Strategic Management Plan was developed by the Great Artesian Basin Consultative Committee and endorsed by governments in 2000.

In August 2015, a review of the first plan was conducted in consultation with the state and territory governments and the Great Artesian Basin Coordinating Committee. Findings from this review included a range of achievements in the Basin’s water management over the past 15 years, identification of a number of ongoing issues and a range of new issues that have emerged in the Great Artesian Basin.

For more information, visit www.agriculture.gov.au and www.gabcc.gov.au.


Water Markets Challenge—Business Research and Innovation Initiative (BRII)

The BRII Water Markets Challenge aims to improve water market information.

Four businesses have received grants of up to $100,000 to test the feasibility of their solution to the BRII water market challenge. The grant recipients have until the end of this month to prepare their feasibility study. They can then apply for an additional $1 million to complete a proof of concept for delivery in 2018.

“Australia is a world leader in the development of water markets – but as these markets grow, new sources of water information and types of water products are being developed” said Mary Colreavy, Assistant Secretary of Water Acquisition and Markets, for the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.

“This means it can be challenging for water users to find reliable, up-to-date information about the changing market so they can be confident in making informed trading decisions” said Ms Colreavy.


Continue reading about Business Research and Innovation Initiative

Aither, Civic Ledger, NGIS and Marsden Jacobs are the four companies looking at how they can improve market transparency and market literacy. They are looking at all aspects of trading, from what a participant needs to know when considering whether to trade, through to the completed trade.

“We want to make it easier for irrigators and others to find all the information they need in one place – and the BRII programme is helping us to partner with four innovative businesses that have the potential to develop that technology. I look forward to seeing these exciting projects progress in coming months” said Ms Colreavy.

The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science launched BRII in 2016 to develop innovative solutions to public sector challenges. The water markets challenge aims to improve the transparency, timeliness and reliability of water market information, build the confidence and awareness of potential market participants and increase water market participation.

The need for such a solution is reinforced by the recent Productivity Commission inquiry report on regulation of agriculture, which found people in the agricultural sector are seeking improved information and transparency in Australian water markets. 

Australia is a leader in using markets as a form of water management, and success in solving the challenge would draw positive attention from water resource managers around the world.

For more information, visit the business.gov.au water markets page.


Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) Recovery Project

Excavators and dump trucks at work on the South East Flows Restoration Project.

The impacts of prolonged drought and water over-allocation across the Murray-Darling Basin left the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) region environmentally damaged.
Now, three projects are helping to make improvements in the area, part of the $137 million CLLMM Recovery Project funded through the Australian Water for the Future initiative and the South Australian Government’s Murray Futures program.

The projects involved the construction of fishways and drainage, and the planting of over five million plants, and have all contributed to increased health of the Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.

To provide effective fish passage in the Murray Barrages, six fishways are being constructed at the end of the River Murray. Five of the fishways have been completed — these are the ones at Boundary Creek, Ewe Island and Mundoo Barrages, and two at Goolwa Barrage. The sixth fishway, at Tauwitchere Barrage, is due to be completed by June 2017.


Continue reading about Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth Recovery Project

Fishways help native fish to complete their lifecycles by giving them access to the ocean, lagoons, lakes and the River Murray to breed and grow which, in turn, helps to increase regional fish populations.

Heading south, the South East Flows Restoration Project will construct approximately 12km of new drain and upgrade approximately 81km of existing drain between Kingston South East and Salt Creek. Water that is currently running out to sea will be diverted along the new and upgraded drainage channels, and depending on the quantity and quality of the water available, it will be directed to either the Coorong, wetlands en route, or if necessary out to sea.  

Works commenced in March 2017 and are expected to take 12 months. Benefits include enhanced management of freshwater entering the Coorong, helping to maintain salinity levels which helps prevent degradation during periods of Low River Murray flows; and reduced outfall at Kingston Beach that will benefit seagrass populations.

The third project, a seven year revegetation program, has recently concluded with over five million plants being planted by landholders, community groups and traditional owners. The program responds to recent impacts of drought on Lakes Alexandrina and Albert that caused a significant decline in aquatic and shoreline vegetation and an associated decline in habitat for fish and frog species.

Benefits also include healthier lakebed vegetation, reduced erosion, stabilisation of ecological decline, re-establishment of aquatic and terrestrial vegetation and the associated re-establishment of fish, birds, mammals and invertebrates.

The project involved 45 landholders with fencing occurring at 102 sites, resulting in over 100km of shoreline and vegetation being fenced.

For more information on the Coorong, Lower Lakes and Murray Mouth (CLLMM) Recovery Project