Water storages edge up, but not fast enough

Storages and allocations edge higher on rain


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HUME: Storages such as the Hume need big inflows, quickly to supply water for irrigators this season.

HUME: Storages such as the Hume need big inflows, quickly to supply water for irrigators this season.

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Water storages are rising but not fast enough and irrigators are worried.

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Water allocation increases have given little comfort to irrigators as levels remain well below those of 2018.

Rain has also seen soil moisture levels fill, but more rain is needed.

Lancaster dairy farmers Paul and Kerry Price are hoping for heavy rains through spring to fill water storages.

The couple own 200 megalitres of water, and with 70 hectares of permanent pasture requiring 700ML of water, they needed to purchase an additional 500ML.

Mr Price said at present, temporary water prices weren't economic for pasture.

In 2018 they used 700ML on the home block, buying the extra 500ML at $300/ML.

Mr Price said if the season didn't improve, the 200ML they owned would be kept for an autumn 2020 watering of pastures that they would oversow.

"We wouldn't water too much from now and we'd feed grain, silage and hay through until May," he said.

Marsden Jacob Associates principal Simo Tervonen said allocations were low and trade restrictions were coming into play, resulting in price differences between districts.

Mr Tervonen said the major permanent crop growers would have locked in as much forward water last year as possible to "maybe" cover the early part of the season.

He said there was water available in the Victorian systems and carryover water was available that could be used or traded.

Announcing the latest seasonal determinations, Northern Victoria resource manager Andrew Shields said there were variations across systems when compared to 2018.

Mr Shields said the Goulburn and Loddon systems increased from 25 per cent high reliability water share (HRWS) to 32pc last week.

The Campaspe system increased from 37pc HRWS to 48pc.

For the Murray system, the allocations stand at 26pc HRWS, up from 16pc.

However at the same time in 2018, the Murray system was at 59pc and the Goulburn and Loddon systems were at 47pc.

He said the Goulburn system was tracking between average and dry, while the Murray system was in the dry range.

Inflows into the Goulburn system so far this August were around 110 gigalitres, on an August average of 260GL.

"We are seeing water flowing into dams after rain, catchments are responsive and water is running off," he said.

"We are seeing responses from 10-15 millimetre rainfall totals."

Agriculture Victoria senior irrigation officer Robert O'Connor, Echuca, said for a lot of non-horticultural irrigators the price of water was out of reach.

"The key message is to make the most of spring growth because that's when the greatest response to irrigation is available," Mr O'Connor said.

"In spring the plant water use was a bit lower and there was good growth from a lot less water use when compared with over summer."

He said there was more soil moisture in the top 40cm than in 2018.

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