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Customer innovation was highlighted with the regional winners of the 2016 Rural Water Awards.

Hillywood Tree Nursery of Briagolong took out the regional surfacewater category, with their efficient use of water from the Freestone Creek.

When designing the site, an irrigation designer was engaged to help design a simple, efficient system focussing on both water and energy efficiency. The system is underground, consisting main lines and sub-mainlines with above ground laterals. There are individual micro-spray stakes inserted into each pot, which are pressure controlled and have a non-leaking valve. This ensures a uniform watering in each irrigation. As each pot has a stake, there is no run-off as the water delivery is completely controlled. This is the best option for larger potted trees.

The watering system was designed to optimise water usage using the best delivery method available, reducing energy consumption and reducing labour input. The addition of the water treatment has reduced the risk of water borne pathogens entering the system and plant/crop infection and death.

A Gardener’s Company in Skipton were the Community and Education winners at the regional level, and also won a special state level award for their contribution to the local community.

The Company runs The Shamba, a market garden which grows a diverse range of seasonal heritage vegetables.  The garden was built at owner Nic Gowan’s expense, on disused Shire land.

This project uses a creative approach to best use a folio of local water sources, including a decommissioned reservoir (Jubilee Lake), storm water and rainfall. It sits next to the Mount Emu Creek in the Victorian Volcanic Plains and is a tributary of the Hopkins River. Soils, aspect, infiltration, plant water use zones and plant water use requirements have been matched with application rates. From a system and design use, low pressure drip systems and irrigation scheduling and soil moisture metres have all been adopted and plantings undertaken on raised beds have been implemented. The project then further lends itself to access ‘fit for purpose’ water’ that is not part of the larger water distribution system.

The Shamba is regularly used within the local community to spread the “paddock to plate” message to kindergartens, schools, community groups and tourists.

Leathorn Dairies from Newry were the regional irrigation district winners, having changed 60 hectares of their farm from old fashioned flood irrigation to spray pivots. Major on-farm works were needed for this to occur, as the topography of the area is quite difficult. There are very few pivots in the area due to this.

The property had a long history of high usage of irrigation, even after laser land forming. An average year saw them using 660-680ML per year, which has now been reduced to around 230ML – nearly a third of the previous figure!

Moisture monitors have been installed, which cut down labour and time. Scheduled watering is based entirely on the monitoring system. Labour involvement is dramatically reduced – just a flick of a switch starts the whole system.

Pasture growth is professionally measured by a consultant each week. Tonnage has held at a similar figure, but the quality of pasture has greatly improved.