The aim of the Southern Victorian Irrigation Development Project was to explore opportunities to further develop irrigated agriculture in Central and West Gippsland through new delivery infrastructure.
The project aligns with the objectives in Water for Victoria, the Government’s water plan, to support regional development, invest in infrastructure and help irrigation districts adapt to a drier climate. The project was also timely to inform how a thriving agricultural sector might form part of the local industry transition (after the mine closures) and benefit the regional economy.
Phase 1 of the project was completed in 2017 and included desktop land capability and water resources assessments. These were used to select focus areas for further review.
Phase 2 of the project was completed in 2018 and included preliminary concept design, desktop environmental and cultural heritage assessments, water demand assessments and economic analysis within four focus areas identified through Phase 1.
A scheme on the Avon River was found to be most feasible. A second potential area for exploration was the Latrobe East scheme. However, in this location water availability was a limiting factor.
Phases 1 & 2 were supported by funding from the Australian Government National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF).
Findings from Phases 1 and 2 can be downloaded here.
Southern Rural Water completed Phase 3 of the Southern Victoria Irrigation Development (SVID) Project in 2021. The most recent findings can be downloaded here.
In 2020, the Victorian Government provided $500,000 in funding to further investigate options through Phase 3. Through this phase Southern Rural Water engaged consultants to undertake a:
- Review of previous findings to ensure relevance within the current context
- Pre-feasibility assessments for an expanded area of the Latrobe River, unconstrained by current water allocations (to be completed to a level comparable to those in Phase 2)
- Detailed customer water demand assessment and willingness to invest in infrastructure studies in areas identified through earlier work as feasible
- Delivery of a consolidation report
The outcomes of Phase 3 suggest that an infrastructure scheme near the Avon River, adjacent to the MID is feasible, and demand for water and willingness to invest is continuing to grow. Water availability is the primary constraining factor in the Latrobe area. However, there is great potential should a more secure, reliable water source be made available. The findings also suggest that both schemes, if developed, will have positive cost-benefit and significant potential economic benefits, creating flow on regional jobs and food security.
Each phase of the SVID Project to date has been completed in consultation with a Stakeholder Reference Group including representation from irrigators, peak bodies, agencies and traditional owners. Genuine and fit for purpose engagement will be a key focus of any future investigations. The findings from SVID are also informing work underway as part of the Central and Gippsland Region Sustainable Water Strategy and Latrobe Valley Regional Rehabilitation Strategy.
Moving forward, Southern Rural Water and the Victorian Government are continuing to invest in developing each of these opportunities in a responsible and phased manner, recognising their different stages of advancement.
For the Macalister Avon Irrigation Development Project this means engaging with stakeholders on how available water can be best used to support increased production and jobs in the region; and undertaking the necessary water resource assessments, functional infrastructure design, on ground environmental and cultural heritage/values assessments and developing customer protocols required to inform government decisions on a future business case.
The Central and Gippsland Sustainable Water Strategy has recently committed to sharing an allocation of 16GL from Blue Rock between agriculture, the environment and cultural uses. The volume of water secured through these negotiations will support irrigated agriculture development in the identified Latrobe area. To that end Southern Rural Water will continue to work with the Victorian Government, customers and stakeholders to investigate opportunities.