NSW Farmers is calling for $50 million in funding over four years to upgrade physical and digital water infrastructure to enhance water efficiency. This includes funding to support the Great Artesian Basin and storage solutions for water along the north coast. Any additional water made available through efficiency upgrades must be prioritised for agricultural purposes in New South Wales.
Enhancements to water efficiency can be realised through upgrades to physical and digital water infrastructure. NSW Farmers is calling for funding towards these upgrades across both on and off farm physical and digital water infrastructure. Water is a highly valued resource, therefore it must be used as efficiently as possible. Over the last 15 years farmers have achieved enormous efficiencies in their water use and are among some of the most efficient water users globally. It is essential that farmers continue to have access to sustainable and affordable water now and into the future.
The sale of Snowy Hydro provided $6 billion for regional New South Wales. NSW Farmers would like to see a portion of this funding invested in enhancing water efficiency through the upgrade of physical and digital water infrastructure. By making more water available for agriculture, farmers in the state can invest with greater certainty and look to diversify their operations.
Through improvements to river and irrigation company infrastructure, gains in water efficiency can be achieved. Upgrades to river barrages and weirs as well as the lining or piping of open irrigation channels can prevent loss of water through seepage and evaporation. Maintenance of dam infrastructure along with increasing dam capacity have the ability to increase water efficiency and security. Through improving the efficiency of water storage and supply we can increase the total amount of water available to all water users. Additionally, innovative use of environmental water and improved efficiency of environmental watering can reduce the environmental demand for water.
Past on-farm water infrastructure programs have contributed greatly in enhancing water efficiency through improved irrigation layouts, infrastructure and innovative solutions to minimise water loss. These on-farm infrastructure improvements have allowed farmers to be more productive, ensuring that every drop of water goes towards producing a crop. Continuing to provide funding for on-farm infrastructure works will allow further enhancements in water efficiency throughout the entire irrigation system, making more water available for use in agriculture.
Great Artesian Basin Sustainability initiative (GABSI) funding arrangements
The GABSI has had great success and widespread support in improving the efficiency of bores within the Great Artesian Basin. Further funding support is now required to continue to improve the pressure of the resource, controlling more bores and installing piping.
NSW Farmers is calling for $4 million from New South Wales to match half of the Federal Government’s $8 million commitment for the Interim Great Artesian Basin Infrastructure Investment Program (a contribution to be shared with the Queensland Government).
An integrated rural water information scheme
NSW Farmers is calling for $3 million over four years to improve the way information about rural water usage is collected.
Recent controversy around transparency in water licencing, allocation and extraction has highlighted the need to upgrade technology and ensure that both farmers and government have confidence in the water information systems that underpin licencing and allocation. This would involve a business analysis to identify how improved water information and smart metering at farm scale could improve transparency for all stakeholders.
Distributed storage solutions for managing water along the coast
A comprehensive study, supported by $1.8 million from New South Wales, that identifies risks, opportunities and cost-effective infrastructure solutions is required for managing destructive rainfall events and improving the water resilience of the coastal regions.
Episodic high rainfall events on the eastern fall of the Great Dividing Range are a source of significant cost to landowners and communities and also of significant water wastage. Sites for new large public storages are limited; however, there is scope for a network of smaller storages on private land in the heavily dissected hinterland terrain that would function both to control high rainfall events and to supplement coastal water supply.