Increase in water deliveries despite challenges

Wednesday 16 June, 2021
by Charmaine Quick, Managing Director, Goulburn-Murray Water

In the water business, getting the stars to align is a tough, often impossible ask.

It’s certainly something Goulburn Murray Water has very little influence over.

Coming off the back of three below-average inflow seasons in the southern Murray-Darling Basin – and despite the demands of wrapping up the hugely successful Connections project – GMW still delivered about 918 gigalitres of water to the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District this season. 

To put that achievement in context; last year GMID irrigation deliveries totalled just 512GL. 

A combination of higher allocations, lower water prices, and a drier autumn period this year contributed to GMID deliveries growing by more than 75 per cent.  The Goulburn and Murray systems reached 100 per cent of high-reliability water shares in 2020/21, compared to only 80 per cent and 66 per cent respectively in 2019/20, demonstrating the tough conditions in the southern half of the basin that year.

This greater availability of allocated water also contributed to much lower prices for temporary water across northern Victoria.

After contributing to storage reserves early in 2020/21, rainfall dropped below average during the second half of the season, prompting many irrigators to continue watering right up until the end of the irrigation season. 

Heavy demand in specific periods has also caused some challenges for GMW in terms of meeting our delivery service standards.  

The automated delivery system has also been tested with high water demands; where our delivery capability has been reduced due to waterway impediments such as weeds  – which at times impacted service – and which are being worked on in this year’s winter maintenance program. 

About 620GL was carried over into 2020/21 by private water users (i.e. all entitlement holders excluding urban and the environment) in the Murray and Goulburn systems.  

In these two systems, about 900GL remains available for private water users as carryover into 2021/22.

Having carryover water in accounts allows for a positive beginning to the 2021/22 season for a lot of customers. They will also receive the benefit of seasonal determinations when available.

Seasonal determinations are due on July 1, which is now just weeks away – and these are currently expected to be less than 25 per cent of high-reliability water shares in the Goulburn and Murray systems.

The resource manager for northern Victorian water systems has forewarned that the Broken and Bullarook systems are likely to start 2021/22 at zero per cent. 

Flows in the storages between now and the end of June, plus final carried-over allocation volumes, will combine to provide the early seasonal determinations in all systems. 

Last month we saw the end of the 2020/21 irrigation season, with the shutdown taking place from May 15 and running to August 14. 

During this time, GMW construction and field services teams will also be seen on the job throughout our region; carrying out winter maintenance and construction activities across the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID). 

This vital ongoing maintenance on the revamped channel network will include repairing damaged banks and maintaining weeds and silt; which all impact the delivery of water during the irrigation season. 

Charmaine Quick,
Managing Director
Goulburn-Murray Water