Big season for irrigators

A HOT, dry summer resulted in the amount of water used by farmers in the Macalister Irrigation District exceeding the five year average.

Southern Rural Water’s manager water supply east, Terry Clapham, said customers had so far used 166,774 megalitres for the 2012-13 season, compared to the five year average of 151,907ML.

“We are on track to have a season almost exactly the same as 2005-06, during the middle of the drought,” he said.

 “We will use nearly the same amount of water, with a very similar allocation.” 

Customers finished the season with 100 per cent allocation to their high reliability water shares and 20 per cent to their low reliability water shares.

The season finished on May 15 for irrigation district customers, but continued until June 30 for river customers. 

Mr Clapham said that at the end of the district season, Glenmaggie was down to 10.2 per cent storage, compared to 77.5 per cent the same time last year.

“Glenmaggie is a small storage on a large catchment — it’s designed to empty and fill every year, unlike most other storages,” he said.

Irrigators also used 19,297ML of water from the MID’s Thomson Dam drought reserve, leaving 30,657ML plus inflows for the next season if needed.

The dry season resulted in a record demand for trade.

Allocation trades came to a record level of 19,800ML throughout the season, compared to an average of around 12,000ML per season.

Storage operators have also been busy over the season.

“Work at storages over the season has included rewiring and upgrading spillway gate motors at Glenmaggie and Maffra Weirs,” said Mr Clapham.

Other works at Glenmaggie have included installing permanent swimming markers, catchment protection, fire clean up and fence replacements, workshop and office upgrades and debris removal.

Mr Clapham said staff would focus on maintenance during the winter shutdown, including emptying channels and preparing sites for automation upgrades as part of the MID 2030 program.

“We are putting a big emphasis on reducing carp numbers this winter and we have already removed around 500kg from the eastern channel alone. 

“If you know where carp are hiding over winter, please give us a call to come and remove them.

“Customers should also be aware that the seasonal annual use limit increase of 11 per cent, which we announced earlier this season because of the dry conditions, ended on June 30.

“If you came close to using your annual use limit, please contact our office to discuss your options.”