Farmers and communities in the Goulburn Murray Irrigation District need to continue to adapt to changes in water supply and land use to remain competitive.
That’s the clear message of two reports released by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority last week.
Goulburn Broken CMA chief executive Chris Norman said the findings of the Regional Irrigated Land and Water Use Mapping and The Challenges and Opportunities of Changes to Water Availability on the Food and Fibre Sector reports provided solid data to inform decisions in the GMID.
‘‘There is now a huge weight of work that confirms, among other things, that less water is being used by irrigators across the GMID, that there is more demand for high-security water from outside the region and irrigators are more reliant than ever on temporary water to meet their production needs and therefore are more exposed to higher water prices than in 2004-05 when we last did this level of in-depth analysis,’’ Mr Norman said.
Changes in land use such as subdividing land previously used for agriculture for residential and hobby farm use are also having an impact, which contributes to the area being dried-off.
‘‘More than 70 per cent the farmers surveyed remained optimistic, saying they believed they would still be farming their property in the next five to 10 years, and half planned to pass their property on to a family member,’’ Mr Norman said.
‘‘Farmers are upgrading their farm irrigation infrastructure to increase productivity and use water more efficiently, which also benefits the environment.
‘‘The majority of farmers have also completed and are implementing a professionally prepared whole farm plan.
‘‘This shows a willingness to adapt their management practices and develop flexible sustainable farming systems.’’
Goulburn-Murray Water managing director Pat Lennon said: ‘‘This important mapping of land and water use across the GMID will help inform our future strategic planning for the business and shows how important these type of joint efforts are to understand the changes in the irrigation community’’.
Data from the reports will now be used to develop an action plan highlighting a range of opportunities for activities in GMID that will continue to make it an attractive place to grow existing and new food and fibre-related businesses while protecting and improving the area’s unique environmental and cultural values.
Water Minister Lisa Neville said the Victorian Government’s Water for Victoria plan was committed to helping irrigation districts to adapt.
‘‘The data and information collected for these two reports provides a valuable resource to respond to the challenges that are being faced across the GMID,’’ Ms Neville said.