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Reports confirm irrigation reduction

TWO reports released today show large areas of irrigable land between Nyah and the South Australian border were not irrigated during the 2009-10 season.

The 2009-10 Irrigation Status Report for the Pumped Irrigation Districts revealed 32 percent of irrigable land in Sunraysia’s pumped irrigation districts did not receive water (other than rainfall) during the 2009-10 season. Of the four pumped irrigation districts, Merbein had the largest area not irrigated at 43 percent.

Meanwhile, the 2009-10 Irrigation Status Report for the Private Diverters and Nyah District captured information on private diverters from Nyah to Lock 10 and showed 17 percent of irrigable land in this river reach did not receive water. This was the first time irrigation status across this broader part of the region has been surveyed.

Both reports were commissioned by the Mallee Catchment Management Authority (CMA), with support from the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) and Lower Murray Water. The reports were completed by SunRISE 21 INC.

“The purpose of this research was to develop credible data to help understand the extent to which current conditions are impacting on irrigated horticulture within the pumped districts and the private diversion areas,” Mallee CMA chief executive officer Jennifer Collins said.

“This report will ensure local irrigators and agencies have reliable information on which to base decisions about their future activities and programs.”

A breakdown of the figures from the 2009-10 Irrigation Status Report for the Pumped Irrigation Districts also indicated that 34 percent of irrigable land in Mildura was not irrigated; 31 percent in Red Cliffs; and 15 percent in Robinvale.

This report also captured information on the take up of the small block irrigators exit grant, revealing a total of 80 properties are subject to this grant. Twenty-seven properties in Merbein are subject to the grant; 22 properties in Mildura; 27 properties in Red Cliffs; and four in Robinvale.

Ms Collins said the report also highlighted a marked change in the irrigation methods used by local growers, with drip irrigation increasing from 17 percent of irrigated crops in 2005-06 to 33 percent of irrigated crops in 2009-10, while furrow irrigation declined from 22 percent of irrigated crops in 2005-06 to nine percent of irrigated crops in 2009-10.

“Overall, 70 percent of crops were irrigated by the more water efficient methods of drippers or low level sprinklers in 2009-10,” she said.

The 2009-10 Irrigation Status Report for the Private Diverters and Nyah District looked at changes in irrigated horticulture in five reaches of the Murray River: Nyah to the Wakool Junction (i.e. the Nyah river reach including the Nyah pumped irrigation district); Wakool Junction to Euston Weir (i.e. the Boundary Bend river reach); Euston Weir to Liparoo (i.e. the Wemen river reach); Colignan to Koorlong (i.e. the Colignan river reach); and private diverters from Nichols Point to Lock 10 (i.e. the Mildura river reach).

A summary of results from this report showed 42 percent of irrigable land in the Nyah river reach was not irrigated during the 2009-10 season; seven percent of irrigable land in the Boundary Bend river reach did not receive water (other than rainfall); five percent of the Wemen river reach was not watered; and 18 percent of the Colignan reach was not irrigated.

This report also showed the irrigated area decreased in the Colignan and Mildura private diverters river reaches, while increases were recorded in the Wemen and Boundary Bend reaches. The irrigated area increased by 4,265 hectares in the Wemen reach and 6,090 hectares in the Boundary Bend reach between 2005-06 and 2009-10, mostly for almond and olive tree plantations.

Both the 2009-10 Irrigation Status Report for the Pumped Irrigation Districts and the 2009-10 Irrigation Status Report for the Private Diverters and Nyah District are available from the "Reports" page on the Mallee CMA website.

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