Concerns about unwanted upgrade

Goulburn-Murray Water accused of going ahead with unwanted modernisation,

IRRIGATION WOES: Boort irrigators Colin and Mary Fenton say they're feeling pressured to put in modernised irrigation systems.

IRRIGATION WOES: Boort irrigators Colin and Mary Fenton say they're feeling pressured to put in modernised irrigation systems.


Boort irrigators concerned about the cost of upgrades.


A Boort district irrigator says he feels he's being forced into installing a system he neither wants, nor needs.

Colin and Mary Fenton, who have properties in the Boort and Kerang areas, said Goulburn-Murray Water had insisted their gravity-fed irrigation systems be replaced with expensive Magflow outlets.

Mr Fenton said G-MW had told him the supply to his dryland property, on the Boort-Normanville Road, would be modernised, despite it using only a very small amount of water.

"In the last three years I have used 0.3 megalitres of water out of that outlet. Now they want to spend $60,000 to $70,000 on a new meter," Mr Fenton said.

"I've been paying a service fee and fixed charges and for the water that goes onto that block."

He said when staff from the Connections project, the $2.2 billion upgrade of the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District, visited him they informed him they were not going to upgrade the outlet.

"They said they wouldn't bother about it, as there were no savings there," he said.

The old Dethridge wheels cost $350 a year to maintain but Mr Fenton said the Magflow meters would cost $1000.

"We've been told that cost will go up to $2000 to cover the cost of maintenance," he said.

G-MW has recently reduced its water prices by 10 per cent.

"We have to pump that water and I don't know what it's going to cost," he said

"But I have to wear that on an annual basis from here to eternity. By the time you add in all the extra costs, it will be more than what they are reducing the price by."

The Fentons grow wheat and barley on the 161-hectare outblock.

Mr Fenton said Goulburn-Murray Water had also decided to modernise his gravity-fed home block, which used about 150ML of water, to grow cereal and pastures.

"When they first came round, they gave us some weird scheme that they would pump water to the whole farm," Mr Fenton said.

"I objected to that, but it just went on and on and on.

"I'm in the process of trying to find out what the cost is, compared to the little bit of water, that's' going to be saved."

To modernise the system on the home block, Mr Fenton said he had to installed a new three-phase power system across a main road.

"I was talking to the electrical firm last week and they've been six months putting in a system we didn't want," Mr Fenton said.

"That used to supply us water with a gravity feed, now we have to pump the stuff.

"We are almost to the point that it might be functional."

Mr Fenton said in the Loddon Valley irrigation area he estimated 44 per cent of the irrigation structures Goulburn-Murray Waterinstalled hadn't had a drop of water run through them.

"And they are never likely to have," he said.

He also claimed 10 per cent of all meters delivered less than 10ML a year.

"The taxpayer is paying for that modernisation," he said.

"As October is the so-called 'cut-off' for the Connections project, they are putting their hand into the pocket of the commonwealth government, to carry on doing work."

A Goulburn-Murray Water Connections spokesman said of the 1900 outlets, installed since the start of the project and operational for a full season, in the Loddon Valley, only two percent had no usage record.

"The Connections Reset Delivery Plan is successfully working individually with customers, to install compliant meters that suit their purposes and to make sure they don't invest in underused assets" the spokesman said.

"Typically a threshold of 10 ML per year is in place to avoid investment in underused outlets."

Since the project began in 2011, about 1,900 meters have been upgraded in the

Loddon Valley.

ypical meter costs to replace a large Dethridge wheel ranged between $35,000 and $45,000.

Last week, it was revealed GMW was seeking a further $175.5 million in federal funding for two modernisation projects.

Read more:

Goulburn-Murray Water wants another $175m from the federal government

ESC agrees to GMW's pricing submission

Metering woes lead to irrigator's questions over accuracy.

G-MW told Water Service Committees the funding, under the Water Efficiency Program, will recover a further 15.9 gigalitres of water.

A senior Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning bureaucrat said the parameters for Connections were announced with its reset, in 2016.

"It identified the amount of works it was going to do, for the amount of money left, and the amount of water to be recovered," DELWP Statewide Infrastructure and Rural Strategy executive director Andrew Fennessy said.

"It had always been known Connections was never going to modernise every part of the system."

That was part of a deal done as a part of the 605GL (Sustainable Diversion Limit offsets) to recover 62GL of water.

"The state system had an obligation to meet these targets," Mr Fennessy said.

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