Rain brings temporary reprieve for irrigators

Murray River high reliability water shares increase again

SEASONAL UPDATE: Dr Mark Bailey, Northern Victorian Resource Manager, said the recent rainfall would have an impact on February's seasonal determinations.

SEASONAL UPDATE: Dr Mark Bailey, Northern Victorian Resource Manager, said the recent rainfall would have an impact on February's seasonal determinations.


Good rainfall will influence future seasonal determinations.


Water deliveries in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District have dipped sharply, on the back of good rainfall in northern Victoria.

Goulburn-Murray Water deliveries across the GMID almost halved, prior to the forecast, and on the back of falls of around 25millimetres.

The rain came as G-MW updated its seasonal determinations, bringing the Murray system up to 100 per cent high-reliability water shares, from 94pc.

Northern Victoria Resource Manager Dr Mark Bailey said the Goulburn and Loddon system increased from 88pc to 93pc HRWS.

“Most of northern Victoria received some rainfall during the first half of December,” Dr Bailey said.

“The rainfall across the northeast catchments increased the flows into the storages and in the downstream rivers.

“The flows were higher than our conservative estimates, and together with lower evaporation from the storages, provided an additional resource to allocate.”

The seasonal determination in the Broken system increased from 24pc HRWS to 30pc.

The Campaspe and Bullarook systems remained at 100pc HRWS. The Bullarook also has 100pc of low-reliability water shares.

Dr Bailey said rainfall would also influence seasonal determination improvements in the coming months.

“The seasonal determination outlook to 15 February 2019 is based on historical flows into the major storages under different scenarios,” Dr Bailey said.

“These flows are generally low at this time of year.” 

Seasonal determination assessments included estimates of evaporation and river losses.

“As we have seen, if actual losses are lower than these estimates, more water is available to allocate.”

Dr Bailey noted the climate outlooks for summer rainfall did not favour wetter or drier conditions.

“The latest Bureau of Meteorology seasonal outlook indicates there is an even chance of receiving above average rainfall during the December to February period,” Dr Bailey said.

“The Bureau has issued an El Niño Alert, meaning the chance of an El Niño forming in the coming months is around 70 per cent. It is likely that the positive Indian Ocean Dipole is nearing its end, but it has little influence on rainfall from December to April.”

Irrigators, across the north, said the welcome rain would mean they could put off watering pasture or crops by a week to 10 days.

Jodie Hay, Cohuna, said her home farm received 34millimetres of rain, while another block, at Mount Hope, received 46mm.

She said the rain would help with the maize and sorghum crop, the remaining summer pasture as well as dryland lucerne.

“It’s money, falling from the sky,” Ms Hay said.

It was hard to tell if the rain would see the price of water drop.

“The season still has got a long way to travel; we’re only at the start of summer.”

But she welcomed the 100pc HRWS allocation for the Murray River.

“You can do your maths and some forward planning.”

Steve Hawken, Echuca, said he received 32mm but had heard of nearby farms, which saw double that.

‘It’s given us a bit of a reprieve – it’s very handy, but it’s only going to buy us three or four days,” Mr Hawken said.

The biggest winners would be farmers with permanent pasture, lucerne or summer crops.

‘It’s going to save them a considerable amount of money, when it comes to buying temporary water, given the price it is at the moment,” he said.

“An inch (25mm) is an entire, and we’ve had a good, healthy slow irrigation.”

Natalie Akers, Tallygaroopna, said her property received about 25mm.

“It’s delayed, or saved, an irrigation for many farmers, and for anyone that’s put in summer crops, it’s terrific,” Ms Akers said.

“We won’t knock back any drops that fall from the sky.”

The rain was perfect for perennial pastures, although the annuals were finished.

She estimated it could save up to 30-40 megalitres of irrigation water.

Daryl Hoey, Katunga, said he received 20mm, which would give the farm a “reprieve.

“It’ll be all ready to go again, by Christmas,” Mr Hoey said.

“But it means it saves a week’s watering.”

He said it was hard to tell what would happen to temporary water prices.

“There is still a lot of uncertainty up there, as to how much water the almonds are still after,” Mr Hoey said.

“I was under the impression the almonds hadn’t got all they needed for the year – while they are still in the market, the price will hold up.”


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