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Chasing water use efficiency in the Northern Basin

On Wednesday this week I had the opportunity to attend the Gwydir Valley Irrigator Association's Cotton Grower-led Irrigation Research Field Day in Moree.

It was the chance to witness firsthand the research trials being conducted on cotton crops this year, while also being able to talk to growers and those in the industry about the #MoreThanFlow campaign of which both NFF, GVIA and Cotton Australia are part.

It’s good to be able to get away from Canberra and out into paddock once in a while, and the agricultural scientist in me welcomed the chance to take a look at the research on show. Trials investigating optimised row configuration and smarter furrow irrigation were paired with information on the latest in methods for remote control and autonomous irrigation. These trials are supported by research into how best to control traffic on farm as well as the development of new tools to aid in the decision making process of producers.

Gwydir Valley Irrigator Association's Cotton Grower-led Irrigation Research Field Day in Moree

As seen out in the field, water users are constantly working towards greater levels of water use efficiency. Irrigators and farmers know the worth of a gigalitre (GL) of water and how to extract as much as they can from each drop they have. There are of course many drivers behind this. Whether it be as a result of the rising costs of farm inputs exerting economic pressures or the boom or bust environment in which we operate our farming systems, we have to find a way to make do.  The innovative (and often competitive) nature of farmers means we are always working towards the same goal: How can the maximum result that can be achieved from the resources available?

And really, that’s exactly what the #MoreThanFlow campaign is all about too.

It’s a clarion call that the Government start working as hard as other water holders do in making sure every drop of their water counts.

278 GL of water has already been recovered from production in northern basin communities.  This has been placed in the hands of the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder and is dedicated to the purpose of improving the health of rivers, floodplains and wetlands. However the results of the recent Northern Basin Review by the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA) show that the current ‘just add water’ approach to environmental management of the northern rivers is not working. Of the 43 flow indicator targets set by the MDBA to assess environmental outcomes in the north, 19 will not be met under any of the water recovery scenarios they tested.

To their credit, the MDBA has acknowledged this and highlighted the importance of implementing non-flow ‘toolkit’ measures in order to achieve better environmental outcomes. Disappointingly they also recommended that a further 42GL be recovered from productive use.  However the message back from northern basin communities is clear. When it comes to water recovery, enough is enough. The science is in and it’s time to invest in the many non-flow options available to improve the health of the Murray-Darling, and not add further to the socio-economic pain caused by the Basin Plan through further recovery.

It’s time to see if the Government can match irrigators and farmers in the effective and efficient use of their water resources.

Agree? Then take the opportunity to complete a quick and easy online submission to let the Government know that enough is enough when it comes to water recovery. Click here to make your submission #MoreThanFlow

Gwydir Valley Irrigator Association's Cotton Grower-led Irrigation Research Field Day in Moree
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