Fruit Growers Victoria successfully applied for funding under rounds 2 and 3 of the Commonwealth government's On Farm Irrigation Efficiency Program. As a result FGVL was appointed as a "Delivery Partner" and is managing approximately sixty water saving projects.
Fruit growers were eligible to receive grants if they had an irrigation upgrade project that would save a minimum of 20 ML of water and if they would be willing to share at least 50% of the savings with the Australian Government. Once approved the government would pay for the grower's on farm works in exchange for the water transfer.
The growers swap a water asset for an irrigation asset. This is done thought a triangle of contacts between the Commonwealth, FGVL and the grower. FGVL has funding agreements with the government, the growers have water transfer contracts with the government and FGVL have works contracts with the growers.
Whilst this arrangement may seem a little complex it means that the water transfers will not interfere with the free water market as the growers have received a significant premium on the market value of their water.
The total value of grants/projects exceeds $10 million. This is a tremendous boost for orchards' efficiency and local economies. The types of projects that have been approved include replacement of flood irrigation, automation, moisture monitoring, installation of overhead irrigation and earth works.
The water savings in the completed projects have been significant and in many cases they have been beyond expectation. One grower with large orchards has reported saving in excess of 200 ML per year above the projects' estimates. This means that not only, after giving the government its share of the savings and getting a far more efficient irrigation system than previously, they have spare water to expand their business.
The successes of these projects prove beyond doubt that we have the know-how to grow more with less water.