Automation helping deliver water in best way possible
With over 94% of our channel system now automated, completing the automation across the rest of our water delivery network will help us to deliver water to customers in the best way possible.
The key benefits of automation are:
- Significant reduction in water loss
- Significantly increase customer service levels
- Efficient and accurate water delivery
- Enables customers to benefit from their on-farm automation
- Higher flow rates
- Reduction in maintenance, and
- Reduction in Workplace Health and Safety hazards.
Major infrastructure projects were identified in the development of a Modernisation Plan that we prepared in 2009 with funding from the Australian Government. The aim of these projects were to renew ageing water delivery infrastructure and generate water savings to reduce the impacts of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan.
The Modernisation Plan considered a range of options available to us to respond to the challenges facing the irrigation industry, one of which included increasing the efficiency of the irrigation distribution system to drive regional development, investment and growth.
The Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Program in New South Wales (PIIOP-NSW) was designed to improve the efficiency and productivity of water use and management of private irrigation networks to deliver water savings for the environment.
Water entitlements resulting from water savings generated from eligible projects, both off and on-farm, will help to secure a sustainable future for irrigation communities.
PIIOP projects allow MI and our customers to reduce water losses and manage water allocations more efficiently.
The total investment by the Australian Government in critical water saving projects in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area (MIA) is now almost $348 million.
PIIOP NSW Round 1
Under Round 1 of PIIOP-NSW MI received funding of $50 million from the Australian Government to upgrade ageing water delivery infrastructure in Lake Wyangan in exchange for water savings.
Manually operated regulators were replaced with automated regulating structures and gates to deliver a consistent flow rate, and Dethridge wheels were replaced with more accurate electronic flow meters. Construction commenced in May 2013 and was completed in November 2014.
PIIOP NSW Round 2
Under the Round 2 of PIIOP-NSW MI received $175.1 million in funding from the Australian Government to upgrade both off-farm and on-farm infrastructure in exchange for water savings.
This funding supported integrated water infrastructure modernisation projects in:
- Bilbul, Leeton and Yenda (completed 2017)
- Wah Wah stock and domestic district (completed 2018)
PIIOP NSW Round 3
Under the Round 3 of PIIOP-NSW MI received $122.3 million in funding from the Australian Government to upgrade off-farm infrastructure in exchange for water savings.
This project was completed in 2019 and involved:
- Channel lining with clay or ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM) rubber lining, including reforming earthen and concrete channels;
- Channel automation, including automation of the Main Canal regulators (completed 2017), Sturt Canal (completed 2018) and unmetered escapes;
- Replacing inefficient channel systems with gravity pipelines and pumped stock and domestic systems; and
- Replacing Dethridge wheels with compliant meters.
Stage 3 Automation
Following consultation with various funding bodies to secure finance for the completion of the automation program, it became clear that this process would take some time and rather than wait indefinitely and delay the benefits to our customers that automation provides, the decision was made to self-fund a portion of the remaining modernisation scope.
Stage 3 Automation was completed in the 2021 winter works period, and valued at $15M, the project scope focused mainly in the Murrami area.
•Over 240 Metered Outlet upgrades
•Over 170 Regulator upgrades; and
•1.7KM of Bank Raising
Works were completed safely with no major incidents or injuries, and no major disruptions to customers watering schedules. The works were delivered in partnership with regional contractors who completed the works to a high-quality level in difficult circumstances due to the wet winter.
We delivered the project under budget which enabled additional scope to be completed including the automation of the Gogelderie Branch Canal 1, adding further value through automating other systems ahead of schedule.
Off-farm Efficiency Program
In January 2022, we welcomed the announcement of $126.48 million in funding under the State led Off-farm Efficiency Program, to finalise our automation works.
The project will upgrade 1,500 metered outlets, automate 360 regulators, refurbish 20 kilometres of open earth channels and construct a new 5,000 ML surge reservoir that together will generate 6.3 GL per year of water savings for the environment and 1.1 GL for water users and the community.
This project will complete the modernisation of the MIA and provide the region with a modern, reliable and efficient water supply. This funding is a key enabler to improving farm productivity and crop yields that support the continued growth and prosperity of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area.
It is a win for everyone, with flow on economic benefits throughout the community, while also delivering significant water savings for the environment. We need to be ready to support our customers though seasons of vastly changing water availability, and these automation works are key to ensuring that we can meet these challenges whilst ensuring our system runs efficiently.
The project commenced at the end of the 2021/22 irrigation season and will be delivered by June 2024.