Re-plumbing Victoria with the NVIRP
You know the feeling: you’ve just tucked yourself into bed, wrapped yourself in the warmth of your doona, and flicked off the bedside lamp. But as you melt into the comforting sheets, you hear it.
Drip. Drip. Drip.
Echoing down the halls like a ghostly metronome, it ticks into your slowly forming dreams.
The damn leaky tap.
Now just imagine that, instead of your bathroom sink, that tap is an enormous pipe dripping and dropping all night throughout Victoria’s agricultural basin.
What is the NVIRP?
As it stands, Victoria’s irrigation system is about 100 years old and generally loses 30 of every 70 ML delivered to a farming locale. In short, the old system is inefficient, costly and counterproductive to the state’s water conservation efforts.
Basically, we need to call in a plumber.
Which is exactly what the Minister for Water and the Department of Sustainability and Environments has done – kind of. By launching the Northern Victoria Irrigation Renewal Project (NVIRP), the department hopes to bring Victoria’s irrigation efficiency up to scratch, making the state’s agricultural sector globally competitive and ensuring the regional productivity for years to come.
Enacted in 2008 and set for completion in 2017, the NVIRP project covers over 6200 km of irrigation system channel. Like an overdue renovation project, the process is a series of thorough repairs, to be completed in two stages, that will save water, improve irrigation and make Victoria’s farming industry more sustainable.
Erica Featherstone, Manager Connections Business Performance, says the project isn’t purely about pipes and channels. In fact, improving Victoria’s farming systems involves talking one-on-one with Victoria’s farming families.
"This is a significant process of rapid change for the community, whether they’re irrigators or not, so communicating directly with farmers is a major focus," she says.
"At our peak periods... we have around 700-800 people working on the project, from accountants and business teams, to construction crews and engineers."
Apart from the locals, the project has also attracted international attention, with sustainability and agricultural innovation agenda items from many nations across the world.
"Visitors have travelled to Shepparton from all over Australia... with international visitors from China, India, Japan, Morocco, New Zealand, Pakistan the United States and Vietnam. These delegations in many instances are... fascinated to hear the benefits from local farmers as to how their farming operation has been improved," says Erica.
When completed, the NVIRP will lift Victoria’s irrigation system to an 85% efficiency level, a standard equivalent to world’s best practice, according to Erica.
What’s so special about this agricultural area?
You might not think about it as you pour milk on your Weetbix in the morning, but the contents of the average fridge don't miraculously materialise at the supermarket. In fact, before it became your breakfast, that milk was just one part of a diverse food production industry centred in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
"(The GMID) is incredibly important to Australia, because it is a major source of food produced for local consumption and export," says Erica.
"We have fruit orchards, vegetable farms, beef and dairy farms amongst many other food production industries and both international and national food processing companies…(such as) milk production factories and a major fruit canning industry."
If the irrigation system isn’t brought up to standard, these industries will not only struggle in the short-term, but also have stunted future growth.
And who knows, you might have to settle for toast.
It might not have the political lustre of climate change action, but the NVIRP is just one project putting environmental reform into motion.
"DSE is focussing on building resilience and sustainability of systems, rather than focussing on individual environmental pressures," says Erica.
Undoubtedly, environmental reform can be a daunting challenge. By directly involving communities in the decision making process, projects like the NVIRP seek to empower everyday Victorians – farmers, engineers and ordinary civilians – in making our state more sustainable.
Check out our Articles archive for more articles about the environment and sustainability.
Articles Written by Alexandra
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