476 irrigators across southern NSW, South Australia and Victoria will benefit from an expanded $158 million investment in irrigation infrastructure to improve the water efficiency of their farms and return water to the Murray-Darling.

“Six regional partners will deliver projects across 476 farming properties to return more than 60 billion litres of water to the environment” said Senator Simon Birmingham, Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment.

“The quality and value and applications under this program was so good that we have increased the size of grants to be awarded from the initially announced $100 million to $158 million.  

“Our government promised to prioritise water saving infrastructure ahead of the buyback of water licenses and, through decisions like this, we are delivering on our election promises.

“Since the election we have capped the level of buybacks at 1500 billion litres, signed deals with all states to implement the Basin Plan and re-prioritised spending away from non-strategic buybacks, giving infrastructure investment greater priority.

“The benefits for farmers of modernising their irrigation systems include improved farm management, increased crop yields, improved crop rotation flexibility, lower nutrient run-off and reduced labour costs,” he said.

The types of works to be funded under the program include laser levelling of paddocks, upgrading overhead irrigation, replacing flood irrigation, modernising drip irrigation systems and installing soil moisture monitoring and automation equipment.

The successful delivery partners are the South Australian Murray-Darling Basin Natural Resources Management Board, Waterfind Pty Ltd, Ricegrowers Association of Australia Inc. (Murray Consortium), Murray Irrigation Limited, Australian Processing Tomato Research Council Inc and Irrigation Efficiency Partners Pty Ltd.

“This investment of a further $158 million in on-farm infrastructure projects reflects our commitment to farmers, their communities and our rivers,” Senator Birmingham said. 

“By investing in on-farm infrastructure we are making Australian farmers even more water efficient, delivering a win for both farmers and the environment.

“Labor's habitual over spending on water licence buybacks and neglect of infrastructure risked decimating irrigation communities.  We are determined to have both a strong irrigation sector that grows as much food as possible as well as healthy rivers.

“The Commonwealth has now acquired or contracted in excess of 1900 billion litres of the 2750 billion litres required to implement the 2019 Murray-Darling Basin Plan targets in full and on time.  This water is already making a real difference to keeping the Murray mouth open without dredging, delivering healthier wetlands, better water quality and boosting numbers of native fish and bird species.

“We started fixing the Murray-Darling under the Howard Government and we are determined to see the job finished for the benefit of our greatest river system and the communities reliant on it.”