Over-allocation, prolonged drought, a complexity of policy at state and federal level, and ageing infrastructure are just some of the challenges that face irrigation and water management in Australia today. At a conference being held in October, participants will discover how the industry is meeting these challenges


To meet the current challenges facing the irrigation industry, Irrigation Australia Ltd (IAL) is organising a conference from 18-21 October 2009 in Victoria, Australia. According to organising committee chairman, Willem Vlotman, IAL knows that one of the reasons people come to a regional conference is to hear experts in their areas speak about new technologies and techniques and challenge participants with different ideas.

‘In this regard, our two keynote speakers, Professor Julian Cribb and Dr Keith Bristow, won’t disappoint,’ said Vlotman

Professor Julian Cribb is the principal of Julian Cribb & Associates, specialists in science communication, and Adjunct Professor of Science Communication at the University of Technology Sydney.

‘Professor Cribb will speak about of the role of water in the future of our civilisation, and his analysis will certainly be thought provoking and perhaps a little controversial,’ Vlotman said.

Keith Bristow is a soil physicist and hydrologist at the Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures (CRCIF). His research interests are in vadose zone hydrology, groundwaters, coastal floodplains and irrigated systems. He has extensive experience working with governments and industry across northern tropical Australia, and is currently joint programme leader of the CRCIF system harmonisation programme.

Catering for diverse needs

Delegates at the conference, entitled Irrigation today: meeting the challenge, will have a wide range of interests so a conference programme has been designed to meet these diverse needs. The programme features eight different streams, which will provide the opportunity to catch up on the latest in irrigation policy, technology and management.

The eight conference streams are:

• 1. Irrigated industries outlook. Presentations will examine the opportunities of managing change in the rural water industry, lessons for extension, lessons from recent modernisation activities and more.

• 2. Water resources management. A range of topics from competing water needs to measuring water use via remote sensing, water savings, drought response and water trading will be covered in workshops and presentations.

• 3. Water data management. Having viable and consistent data is crucial to managing water resources. The Bureau of Meteorology will explain their advances with modernisation of the water information network. Plus there is a special workshop on metering.

• 4. Irrigation system modernisation. From Victoria to Queensland, from surface irrigation to drip irrigation, from engineering to social aspects – all these of system modernisation topics are covered in the presentations and two workshops.

• 5. Water quality management. Salinity, nutrient management and drainage will be addressed in various presentations

• 6. Competing water needs. Reform of legislation, which includes trading and pricing, has been at the heart of water policy changes in Australia in the last few years. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission will present their work on water trading and pricing as part of the Water Act 2007.

• 7. Urban irrigation. Being able to efficiently manage irrigation in urban environments has become essential with the imposition of water conservation measures in many towns and cities in Australia.

• 8. Ground water management. Surface water groundwater interaction will be presented and discussed.

A taste of the menu

David Stewart is a managing director with Goulburn-Murray Water (G-MW) and will be at the conference. In his paper, entitled The opportunities of managing change in the rural water industry, he will review the significant changes that have occurred in the last decade and describe how these have shaped the irrigation landscape, economically, socially and environmentally.

One of the key elements of this change is that every long-held belief about how we own, share and use water is under scrutiny and must be challenged. And as part of this rural water is being revalued with all stakeholders.

Using the experience of G-MW, Australia’s largest rural water authority covering 68,000km2 in northern Victoria, Stewart describes the process of coming to the sobering realisation that viable land and reliable water resources are limited. In this context, how G-MW delivers this water is currently being reshaped through rethinking and investment. This affects methods of water delivery; monitoring of water; reporting of efficiencies; trading of water; institutional arrangements and accountabilities; plus entitlements owned by customers, ie irrigators, urban authorities and the environment. In short, this presentation gives a glimpse of how we do this and meet the challenge of tomorrow with sustainable outcomes.

Tony McLeod, general manager of water planning with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA), is responsible for managing the water planning components of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, including surface and groundwater planning and hydrologic modelling.

This plan is a legally enforceable document that provides for the integrated management of all the basin’s water resources. In his conference presentation, McLeod will explain that some of the main functions of the basin plan will be to:

• Set and enforce environmentally sustainable limits on the quantities of surface water and groundwater that may be taken from basin water resources.

• Set basin-wide environmental objectives, and water quality and salinity objectives.

• Develop efficient water trading regimes across the basin.

• Set requirements that must be met by state water resource plans.

• Improve water security for all uses of basin water resources.

The plan will provide the foundation for managing the basin’s water resources in a way that can be sustained through time and in national interest. McLeod gives an overview of this crucial plan, as well as the work of the MDBA in the development of the plan.

For more information contact the IAL Conference Secretariat. Email: conference@irrigation.org.au., Web: www.irrigation.or.au/events