Winter Works sets up GMW for irrigation season

Tuesday 17 August, 2021

Where have the past three months gone?

Our $8 million Winter Works program has wrapped up, in time for the irrigation season – which is looking stronger than ever thanks to good winter rainfall and early seasonal determinations.

Some areas have been lucky enough to receive well over 100ml of rainfall in the past three months.

You just need to drive around the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District to see how green it is. Early seasonal determinations were recently announced, with the Murray system moving from 31 per cent of high-reliability water shares (HRWS) to 46 per cent HRWS and the Goulburn and Loddon systems increasing from 37 per cent to 59 per cent.

The Campaspe system jumps from 23 per cent HRWS to 59 per cent, while the Broken system increases from 8 per cent to 67 per cent HRWS.

Also contributing to the positive outlook is the large amount of water carried over in most systems.

In the Murray system, 647,257 megalitres of water was carried over – the largest amount since 2013-14.

It’s the highest since 2017-18 for the Goulburn system, with 772,750ML of water carried over.

As such, there is expected to be healthy delivery volumes again this season, which started on August 15, due to availability and, in turn, affordability.

Thanks to our annual Winter Maintenance and Capital Works program, the capacity of our region’s irrigation network has had the required maintenance performed where identified to retain delivery capacity in readiness for the season.

And what a program it has been.

About 90 staff have put in roughly 55,000 man-hours, maintaining and desilting almost 150km of channels at about 50 sites, carrying out construction at more than 40 sites and treated weeds at 24 sites.

In fact, obstructive aquatic weeds have been treated at about 90km of channels throughout the irrigation district.

While we are yet to see the results, it is expected to improve the service level for a large number of customers experiencing numerous degraded water flow rates or had water orders delayed during the 2020/21 irrigation season.

The silt and weed infestation in channels significantly restricted flow rates able to be delivered in numerous main carrier channels by as much as 50 per cent and also risks channels overflowing and damaging automated regulators and other infrastructure.

Our operational planning for these aquatic weed treatment is extensive and we work closely with relevant agencies, including Catchment Management Authorities, Victorian Fisheries Authority and the Environment Protection Authority to ensure the best outcomes for our customers, aquatic life and the environment.

Before the weed treatment took place, we carried out electrofishing – capturing 252 Murray cod, measuring up to 80cm, 113 black fish and 31 yellow belly which were then relocated.

Other works undertaken have included channel bank and gate repairs and bridge works at more than 30 sites.

The Winter Works program is a significant investment for the region aimed at ensuring the irrigation network’s efficiency and maintains our infrastructure for the long term.

By using local contractors, it benefits the local economy by keeping money in our community.

More importantly, it helps to provide a reliable service for our customers this irrigation season.