A multi-million upgrade to Renmark Irrigation Trust (RIT) has enabled it to expand its network, attract new business and deliver ongoing benefits to its 550 River Murray irrigators.
A recipient of a $16.3 million grant from South Australian River Murray Sustainability (SARMS) program, RIT used the funds to help fast track the infrastructure upgrade without any additional debt burden to the Trust and its rate payers.
RIT Presiding Member Peter Duggin said this was especially important at a time when many growers were still just recovering from the millennium drought.
The upgrade saw around 11km of new pipeline laid down and nine major valves and flowmeters installed across three distribution mains.
The works have allowed RIT to improve its service to existing irrigators and a new, high value almond development in the area known as Block X, near Renmark.
“With the old engineering system and infrastructure it was not possible to deliver water to areas on the periphery of our system,” Mr Duggin said.
“Now we are attracting new customers, such as the almond development, as well as diversifying our customer base by delivering Commonwealth environmental water to the Renmark floodplains at the same cost as for any other RIT irrigator.
“We are the first irrigation infrastructure operator in Australia to deliver water to the environment through the Commonwealth Environment Water Holder, signing a five-year contract with them last year .”
The upgrade also includes telemetry, which in the near future will enable remote monitoring and water use management by individual irrigators.
“This will give RIT the ability to manage according to water demand and availability and make best use of our network capacity,” he said.
RIT received its grant under the Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP), which meant the Trust agreed to return 3.5 GL of water to the River Murray, the largest single water return by a 3IP grantee.
3IP is the flagship component of SARMS – a $240 million competitive grants program created to support the restoration of a healthy Murray-Darling Basin environment by aiming to recover 40 gigalitres (GL) of water access entitlements from participating irrigators.
The program is now fully committed with 185 River Murray-based irrigation projects receiving funds across four rounds of 3IP.
The $265 million SARMS program was created by bringing together government, industry, irrigators and communities, to create a grants program that would help build a more resilient and sustainable agriculture-based region able to withstand future climate change challenges and fluctuating water allocations.
Mr Duggin was a key industry advocate and supporter of the original ‘Fight for Murray’ Campaign and the collaborations which helped create the SARMS program.
“The SARMS program was created as an extension of that campaign’s original vision,” he said.
“Through SARMS, South Australia has certainly recognised the potential of doing the right thing for both irrigators and the environment, by not just focusing on water efficiency measures but also enabling business reconfiguration and other value adding opportunities.”
SARMS is funded by the Australian Government and is being delivered by Primary Industries and Regions SA (PIRSA) over six years to mid-2019.
Watch this video to hear more from Peter Duggin and how RIT has used its SARMS grant.