Groundwater map finds a big welcome in Albany
New options for irrigation and drinking water supplies from aquifers in the Albany hinterland have been welcomed by our regional stakeholders.
The Albany hinterland water availability mapping project has revealed an estimated 5 gigalitres per year (GL/yr) of good quality water stored in palaeochannel aquifers running through the hinterland. The work has also mapped potentially another 5GL/yr of water of lesser quality but still useful for agriculture and other uses including industrial processing.
Department hydrogeologist Sheryl Ryan said the project had returned new scientific information about the nature and extent of aquifers in this part of greater Albany.
“We have mapped for the first time two new palaeochannel water resources in the Kalgan and Naranup areas. We had also suspected there were channels in the Manypeaks area, but this is the first time we have confirmed them.”
The success of the four year investigation by the Department of Water was revealed in a stakeholder briefing last month in Albany.
Water Minister Mia Davies said the water availability assessment from the department’s Royalties for Regions funded hydrogeological mapping program brought options to meet projected growth in water demand for the town and the region.
“Currently most of the groundwater in Albany is fully allocated or committed to town water supply, and these new sources are a major contributor to regional water security.
“When added to the work that has been achieved in securing the higher allocations for the town drinking water borefield, I am confident that we are providing the best direction on managing water resources for the benefit and success of the region.”
According to the department’s Great Southern Water Supply Strategy water demand in the region is projected to increase by more than 20GL/yr by 2043 under a medium growth scenario, with 7 GL/yr of this projected for agriculture expansion.
The results of this work support the directions of the Great Southern Development Commission’s Regional Investment Blueprint.
Gascoyne planning goes to next level
Exciting announcements in the irrigation and food production space were the topic of discussion in Carnarvon on 7 December when Water Minister Mia Davies released the draft Gascoyne Master Plan for public comment.
Hot topics included the Minister’s announcement of a $25 million commitment from the Liberal National Government to upgrade a pipeline delivering bulk water to irrigators from the Water Corporation’s southern borefield.
The commitment to upgrade the pipeline delivering bulk water to irrigators from the precinct’s southern borefield aligns with infrastructure improvement actions identified in the draft plan.
The Minister told members of industry and local government gathered that Gascoyne Water Cooperative would also receive $300 000 from Royalties for Regions to assist in preparations for becoming the single bulk water service provider to Carnarvon irrigators.
Regional development Minister Terry Redman also announced $450 000 of Royalties for Regions over two years through the Gascoyne Development Commission to support the establishment of a peak industry organisation, which is another priority action of the draft plan.
Growers welcomed a further announcement that one gigalitre per annum more water would be made available to existing growers from the Carnarvon future town supply reserve. This decision was based on a review of water allocations set aside for Carnarvon’s future town supply, matched with growth projections, to be able to make the extra water available to boost production in the region.
The draft Gascoyne Master Plan builds on key strategic work already undertaken by the local community, including input from the Carnarvon Ministerial Advisory Committee, and was developed by the departments of Water and Agriculture and Food in consultation with the Gascoyne Development Commission and other government agencies and the Gascoyne Community Reference Group.
"It demonstrates how through targeted investment, producer innovation and more efficient use of water and land, the community and State Government can drive the region's economic growth,” Minister Davies said.
You are invited to make comments and submissions on the Draft Gascoyne Master Plan before Friday 10 February 2017. For more information go to the Water for Food website.
Measuring our success hydrographically
Another successful year of training our next generation hydrographers will help keep the Department of Water at the cutting edge of managing the state’s water resources.
In Western Australia, hydrography as a discipline has been predominantly influenced by the development of hydrographic practice in the Department of Water and its predecessors. Late November saw the conclusion of another chapter in the department’s hydrographic history with five staff graduating from the in-house training program.
Graduating trainees underwent a two-year program of periodic in-house instruction, which covered generic occupational safety and health (OSH) issues and hydrographic disciplines including levelling, hydrometric station operation, hydrometric instrumentation, stream gauging, time series data management, open channel hydraulics and stage/discharge rating development.
The efforts of recently-retired department staffer Paul Barton were acknowledged for his role in co-ordinating the training program and as a motivating influence on the trainee group towards the attainment of the formal qualification.
The in-house training has historically been provided for staff recruited to regional measurement teams, and five graduates from regional offices - Tim Dyson (Bunbury), Lauren Miles (Geraldton), Stuart Ranford (Albany), Bryce Stewart (Kununurra) and Ben Tilley (Bunbury) – all received a copy of the department’s own history of hydrography Till The Stream Runs Dry from A/Director General Tad Bagdon.
Regional Coordination and Measurement Program Manager Ross Doherty said in recent years the in-house training program has been aligned to the study requirements of the Water Industry Operations (Hydrography) Diploma, which is jointly provided by Canberra Institute of Technology and the Australian Hydrographers Association.
“The Hydrography Diploma is the recognised national qualification for hydrographers in Australia and is considered a necessary qualification for Department of Water measurement staff, as a compliment to existing degree or TAFE qualifications,” he said.
“The department’s training allows trainees the opportunity to collaboratively work through the Diploma syllabus, while reinforcing the department’s perspective on hydrographic methods and practice as the state’s data collection experts.”
Partnership signings get funds flowing to regional estuaries work
$4.35 million in funding is now flowing into the wellbeing of regional waterways after a suite of partnership signings with catchment groups under the Regional Estuaries Initiative.
Work can now begin on delivering priority projects for each of the identified waterways under the $20 million Royalties for Regions funded initiative.
A smoking ceremony held in Peel on 6 December was the last of several milestone markers to celebrate the transition from planning to on-ground works, with $1.35 million handed over to the Peel-Harvey Catchment Council.
In late November, Water Minister Mia Davies travelled to Albany to meet with the Oyster Harbour Catchment Group and the Wilson Inlet Catchment Committee to sign over $1.2 million to deliver the on-ground works in the Great Southern.
Other events and announcements included a launch in Hamelin Bay with Regional Development Minister Terry Redman to mark $650 000 to the Lower Blackwood Land Conservation District Committee, and a visit by Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Water, Colin Holt, to Busselton marking a $650 000 agreement with the Leschenault Catchment Council.
Regional Estuaries Initiative lead scientist Malcolm Robb said the catchment groups are essential and valued partners in improving estuary health.
“Backing up these dedicated catchment groups with funds to carry out planned works under a well-managed, and scientifically informed strategy, results in real outcomes for water quality and freshwater ecosystems.”
“The value of the catchment groups is in their close relationship with the communities we are working with. This kind of relationship is essential in undertaking works like revegetation, stock exclusion fencing, farm effluent and fertiliser management, soil and water testing, and other tasks to help restore waterways.”
Good news in the pipeline for Southern Forests
A $19 million funding boost from the Royalties for Regions to further develop an irrigation scheme around Manjimup and Pemberton was big news in the Southern Forests on the eve of the annual Cherry festival.
Regional Development Minister Terry Redman was on hand with Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Lewis to announce the state government’s commitment to build on its investment of $3.6 million in the Southern Forests Water Futures project as part of the Water for Food program.
Developed in consult with local irrigators, the proposed scheme will capture water in winter, to be redistributed in winter and summer, to sites that currently do not have access to sufficient high-quality water, or do not have the capacity to capture water.
The proposal has been strongly endorsed by local growers who have registered $10 million in support of the scheme via a formal 'Letter of Intent' process.
Mr Redman said the Southern Forests had become one of the most significant horticultural areas in the southern half of the state generating an estimated $138 million in 2013.
"Based on the high level of grower demand, the proposed irrigation scheme will cost an estimated $80 million and involve the construction of a new 15 gigalitre dam, pipeline and pumping infrastructure," Mr Redman said.
"The state government is now in the process of applying for Commonwealth funding. Depending on the level of funding secured, the project could be rescaled and delivered in stages."
Water Minister Mia Davies said the funding boost was critical in helping to address current water constraints to expansion of agriculture in the region.
"The proposed scheme will modernise distribution and accessibility of irrigation water in the area, facilitating a trading environment," Ms Davies said.
"It is proposed the scheme will be industry led by a private entity or co-operative. The state government will assist in the development of governance and financial models for the proposed scheme."
Agriculture and Food Minister Mark Lewis said the Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme project would reduce the risk for on farm investment and help growers move to higher value horticulture production in the state.
The Southern Forests Water Futures project is a key component of the Water for Food program under the $350 million Royalties for Regions Seizing the Opportunity Agriculture initiative.
Awards flow for our water projects
A win in the 2016 Premier’s Awards has continued a run of recognition for excellence in delivering water resource management programs on behalf of the state.
Water for Food’s Mowanjum Irrigation Trial received the Premier’s 2016 Overall Winner Award as well as the award in the category Improving Aboriginal Outcomes.
Director General Mike Rowe accepted the award, congratulating the Water for Food team and the Mowanjum Aboriginal Corporation for their outstanding achievements and contributions.
“The Mowanjum Irrigation Trial showcases the change that is possible when a community’s vision and investment is matched with expert water science and industry know-how,” Mike said.
Only a few weeks before the department’s work was recognised with the Water Sensitive Urban Design (Grahame Heal award) as part of the 2016 Australian Water Association WA awards.
The web-based application tool UNDO (Urban Nutrient Decision Output) enables land use development professionals to assess the nutrient output from their proposed development.
“This app is designed to assist planners, water professionals working on behalf of land developers and government to make objective decisions on drainage design and options to manage nutrients in urban developments in south-west Western Australia.
“By influencing the way that nutrients are considered in urban design, UNDO saves developers and home buyers money, and at the same time helps reduce nutrient loads migrating into inland waterways, where they can contribute to fish deaths and algal blooms.
The department’s work in urban waterways renewal was also recognised in the 2016 Premier’s Awards, with the Urban Waterways Renewal project a finalist in the Managing the Environment category. This project is a collaboration between the department and the South East Regional Centre for Urban Landcare (SERCUL), in partnership with multiple waterways managers and stakeholders, and involved more than 1600 volunteers during its lifespan.
“It has been an outstanding success on many levels, but most particularly in its engagement with internal and external stakeholders to achieve mutually agreed targets,” Mike said.