Slow start to irrigation season

By Geoff Adams

Good winter rains and continuing mild weather has resulted in a quiet start to the irrigation season in northern Victoria.

Orders for water in the first week since the season opened have been about half the number that started at the same time last last year.

Goulburn-Murray Water water systems operations manager Craig Kellow said last week about 50 orders for water delivery had been placed with G-MW, mostly for stock and domestic needs, since the 2020-21 irrigation season opened on August 15.

“This is less than half the orders we received at the same time, last year when the 2019-20 season opened,” Mr Kellow said.

“Due to the decrease in orders, G-MW is able to fill the system in a controlled fashion and maintain parts of the system below the designed supply level; doing so results in reduced losses from evaporation and seepage.”

Autumn delivered two months of increased rainfall, with the highest flows into Waranga Basin for the past decade, while sustained flows from the Ovens and Goulburn rivers helped fill Lake Victoria in the Murray system.

After two years of dry conditions, G-MW is now hoping to see at least average conditions prevail during the winter months.

In the lead-up to the 2020-21 irrigation season, G-MW invested about 22,000 labour hours to ensure the system was running at peak efficiency when the season opened.

In the latest northern Victorian seasonal determinations, the Murray system has an allocation of 24 per cent high-reliability water shares, the Goulburn and Loddon systems are at 40 per cent HRWS, the Campaspe system has 45 per cent and the Broken system has 39 per cent.

The Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting above average rainfall across the catchment areas from September to November.

NSW Murray irrigators have started the season with eight per cent general security.

Meanwhile, Murray River irrigators in South Australia have already got their full water allocations this season.

South Australian Environment Minister David Speirs said the decision would provide growers with certainty heading into summer.

Last season South Australian irrigators received 100 per cent of allocation by November 2019.