Water managment

Murray-Darling Basin: Water savings lose their spark

8 May 2017

PETER HUNT, The Weekly Times
May 8, 2017 12:00am
SKYROCKETING power prices are undermining water ­efficiency works in the Murray-Darling Basin, irrigators say.

Many of the projects funded under the Federal Government’s $626 million On-Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program require electricity to drive pumps that feed water into lateral and pivot irrigators, pipes and risers on dairy farms or pressurised pipelines for spray and drip irrigation.

“Everyone is getting into water-efficiency grants, but haven’t realised it’s killing their energy efficiency,” Murrumbidgee Irrigation director Tony Sergi said. “What we’re saving in water, we’re losing in electricity.”

Rising power bills led Mr Sergi to abandon electric pumps on his own plum and winegrape property and opt for diesel instead.

“If you get 45C, you have to water during the day, but people are scared to because you’re paying peak prices (for electricity),” he said.

“With diesel I can pump 24 hours a day when it hits 40C, and it costs the same no matter what time of day it is.”

Murrumbidgee Irrigation policy and stakeholder manager Karen Hutchinson said rising electricity prices meant many irrigators were rethinking how they tapped into federal water efficiency grants.

Meanwhile, Victorian Farmers Federation water council chairman Richard Anderson said power pricing was also starting to affect Victorian irrigators’ decisions.

“At the moment we’ve got irrigators on hybrid systems, whose pumping costs are being socialised (paid by all irrigators in the district),” he said.

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