2023: a year in review

Wednesday 13 December, 2023

The past 12 months have been a busy time for Goulburn-Murray Water (GMW) and a time of considerable progress.

We began the year by establishing the Loch Garry Reference Committee.

The committee included Loch Garry Flood Protection customers as well as representatives from the broader community who undertook the difficult task of reviewing the Loch Garry Operating Rules.

I was able to attend some of the meetings the committee held and was able to observe the constructive and collaborative nature of these sessions.

The committee’s recommended new operating rules allow the regulator to be managed differently depending on the nature of the flood event.

No two floods are the same, and it is therefore crucial we use insights provided by each new event to help us strengthen our processes.

It is also important the information we gather is shared among agencies and organisations.

I have therefore been grateful GMW has had the opportunity, along with various other agencies, to contribute to Inquiry into the 2022 Flood Event in Victoria, as well as the Department of Environment, Energy and Climate Action’s assessments of Lake Eildon and Lake Eppalock. I look forward to hearing the findings of these reviews.

Almost a year after the 2022 floods, the east of our region received another considerable downpour.

This rain event exemplified the extremes of our climate, as it took place during a prolonged dry spell, and while bushfires were blazing nearby in Gippsland.

We know our climate is changing, and that despite some significant rainfall events, the amount of inflows our region receives is declining.

To ensure irrigation in northern Victoria remains sustainable we have to innovate and find efficiencies, which is something GMW did in various ways this year.

Our staff have recently developed multiple ways to increase the lifespan of our assets.

We have now begun replacing the lead acid batteries in our flume gates and regulators with longer lasting lithium batteries, and also saw significant success with the trial of an algorithm reducing the movement of our flume gates, and subsequently the wear and tear of their components.

Our modelling shows the transition to lithium batteries alone will create more than $10 million worth of savings over the next 15 years.

We have also greatly improved our surveying methods, with our staff finding new ways to utilise drones and laser imaging, detection and ranging (LiDAR) technology.

This was particularly beneficial in preparing for our Winter Works program, which occurs during the irrigation off-season.

It enabled us to rapidly identify which sections of our channel network we needed to prioritise for weed treatment and remodelling.

Our surveying efforts also allowed us to complete several works projects using machine guidance. This involves construction equipment, such as excavators, being equipped with GPS technology programmed with the project’s design, helping construction staff see exactly where they need to add or remove soil.

Innovations such as these create efficiencies we are then able to pass on to customers.

In 2023, our typical customer bills only rose by 2-6 percent, despite a Consumer Price Index (CPI) of 7 percent.

The advancements we have made will help us to continue to provide stable prices going forth, as is evident in our draft 2024-28 Pricing Submission that we lodged with the Essential Services Commission in September

The comprehensive submission made possible by the hard work of our staff and the generosity of the customers who gave up their time to provide us with valuable feedback through the surveys, workshops, and focus groups we held.

I am appreciative of everyones contribution, and indeed those who contributed to other activities, such as the Loch Garry review, our Customer Satisfaction Survey, and our Recreational User Survey.

I wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season and look forward to continuing to work together in the New Year.