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Managing peak demand in the Macalister Irrigation District

1 February 2024 | News
1 February 2024

The Bureau of Meteorology declared Australia is in an El Nino weather pattern in September 2023, with the long-range forecast predicting increased chances of hotter, drier conditions in some parts of Australia. 

The early season rainfall in the Macalister Irrigation District means our customers have carried a high volume of water availability into early 2024.

As predicted, weather conditions in the region have become hotter and drier and our customers are seeking to make the most of their available water volumes to irrigate their properties.

As soil moisture levels have dropped across multiple areas of the district at similar times, we’ve seen a continued influx of water orders and continued high water demand. In addition, farmers have shortened the time between irrigations and are not drying off land as would be common in drier years because they have more water available to them than is typical for this time of year. 

This scenario places pressure on our delivery system that may lead to some delays. We are scheduling orders as best we can to use the maximum channel capacity available within the limits of the system. 

We have discussed high demand challenges with the Macalister Customer Consultative Committee and how we’ve prepared to manage peaks in demand.

Working together during times of peak demand

We want to work with our customers to help make things easier for everyone. To help get water to your property in a timelier way, we recommend:

  • Planning watering in advance and allowing three or more days to place orders.

  • Trying to avoid making speculative orders that might not be required.

  • Cancelling unwanted orders in a timely manner to free up the system for other irrigators.

  • Communicating early with water planners about follow on or order extensions.

  • Taking water through the night to lower peak loads during the day.

  • Ensuring the flow rate, duration and outlet matches the confirmed order.

  • Speaking to water planners about filling on-farm storages and the best time and volumes to help support the entire system.

  • Consider follow-on orders for multiple outlets, rather than ordering all outlets to start at the same time. Doing this creates opportunity for other irrigators to work in with their orders.

How we manage deliveries during peaks in water demand

We have a dedicated irrigation planning team who monitor our system during the irrigation season. 

Farmers can order water up to 14 days in advance of delivery over the phone or online using Waterline, our phone based and online ordering system. And we strongly encourage them to give us a minimum of three days’ notice.

Orders enter our Demand Management System that either accepts or declines their orders based on available capacity. 

Our DMS and Total Channel Control systems are active automations working on our modernised channel and pipeline network that allocate demand and manage flows. 

The Total Channel Control system minimises the need for manual intervention to operate channels and results in significantly reduced outfalls. However, this has reduced capacity in the system and is especially noticeable during peak times.   

If customers have trouble securing orders due to system capacity constraints, our planners will work with them to find availability within the channel as best they can. 

In addition, our System Performance Officers employed on a rotating 7-day roster of availability with 24-hour standby arrangements, will work with farmers to manage Southern Rural Water infrastructure on their properties and respond to any issues as they arise.

What we've done to improve the efficiency of our irrigation system

In December, we completed a treatment program that removed submerged weeds through our major carrier channels and several smaller supply channels. This treatment ensures our channels can deliver their maximum potential water volumes, and that Total Channel Control operates efficiently  during peak demand periods.

This irrigation season, we have adjusted the maximum order lead time from 31 days to 14 days. This will help minimise a situation where irrigators can potentially ‘lock up’ the system by ordering a long way in advance and cancelling at short notice. Our lead time adjustment will give customers a more equitable ability to access channel capacity.     

We will be communicating more with customers on the ordering and demand trends we are seeing and if there are areas in the system that we are seeing high demand that customers need to be aware of.    

We’ve improved our Macalister Irrigation District weekly snapshot report by removing some data at the top of the report that was giving a false impression of the system’s capacity status during peak demand periods. These weekly reports help customers with strategic business planning.

Finally, we will be working through a wide-ranging review of our channel system operations to identify further efficiencies and improvements.  

Ordering water and further information

Irrigation water can be ordered over the phone or online using Waterline, Southern Rural Water's water order centre.

To access Waterline, you must have a valid user number and password. If you don’t have a user number and password, please contact Southern Rural Water on 1300 139 510.

This factsheet provides information on water deliveries, what we’re doing to deliver the best outcomes, how we can work together to make things easier for everyone, and the details for MCCC members you can talk with to share ideas.

Buy and sell water easily using our online trading platform

Southern Rural Water Exchange is our online trading platform. It enables Macalister Irrigation District customers to buy and sell water entitlements, sell unused water allocation, or buy additional water allocation needed for seasonal operations.  

If you’ve got a surplus you’d like to trade or if you’re a buyer looking for water, then register to get started now.