Desilting an urgent priority, say farmers

Desilting an urgent priority, farmers


Multimedia
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Irrigators in the Koyuga area have urged Goulburn Murray Water to ensure channels are properly cleaned out.

Irrigation channels in the Koyuga area were so choked up with silt the full roll out of the Connections project was in danger of being compromised, according to the area’s farmers.

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Murray Glass shows the depth of the silt, in one of the channels

Murray Glass said he grew crops on two blocks, one at Koyuga and the other at Naneela. Some channels in the region had not been de-silted in more than sixty years and contained up to two metres of mud.

CHANNEL DESILTING: Stephen Snelson, Koyuga Irrigators' Group chairman, near a recently desilted channel, on his property.

CHANNEL DESILTING: Stephen Snelson, Koyuga Irrigators' Group chairman, near a recently desilted channel, on his property.

Silt meant higher evaporation and an inability for the automated Total Channel Control (TCC) system to put enough water down the system, because the channels were so shallow.

Koyuga Irrigators’ Group chairman Stephen Snelson said running the channels higher than the capacity they were built for reesulted in overflows.

“We can’t get the figures out of them (Goulburn-Murray Water) anecdotally, we know there is significant top of channel losses, but nobody wants to speak up, because some of them are using a lot of free water,” Mr Snelson said.

“If you push a 70 megalitre (ML) channel, and it’s three quarters full of clay, the water has to go over the top.”

Connections needed to distribute funding to GMW maintenance program, so additional desilting work could be carried out.

Channel widths had also been “blown out” by carp and cattle, which resulted in a lower supply than promised.

Mr Glass said one of his properties needed high irrigation flows, as he was operating on very steep country. “I am in a worse position than I was previously - even though it is stated no farmer will be in a worse position, with modernisation, than pre-modernisation,” Mr Glass said.

“I had 12 megalitres with the old system; I reckon I get nine megs now, because they have lowered the supply level.”

He said he still had Dethridge wheels on one of his blocks.

Connections staff had been ringing him “almost every winter, saying have you any objections to us putting in a Magflow (automatic irrigation gates)

“I said, ‘no, come out and put it in, and I don’t hear any more from them.

“People just assume I have objected to the Magflow going in, which I haven’t - the issue is with GMW.”

Mr Snelson said one of the biggest problems was getting enough money to upgrade the channels, so they would work efficiently under the new system.

“Connections are doing a very good job, on the work they actually do, but the channels are not complimenting the fittings they are putting in,” Mr Snelson said.

“It’s like having a bucket, with a new handle, that’s full of holes.”

He said it appeared the Connections team was reluctant to carry out desilting operations, independent of meter upgrades.

“They don’t want to upgrade or modernise the channels, all they want to do is put the fittings in. GMW is left with a very low budget, and they are told to fix the channels.”

He said the original backbone channels had been plastic lined and rock armored and worked very well.

“But as soon as you go off the backbone, this is what you have got,” he said.

“The great fear is when the new fittings come in, they will run the channels to design.

“When they run them to design, there is already evidence farmers don’t get their water.”

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