A sharp increase in demand for irrigation water in the Katunga area of northern Victoria has caused frustrating delays for farmers, as they try to establish fresh pastures.
Goulburn Murray Water (GMW) customer operations general manager Scott Barber said late last month, irrigators had 797 gigalitres (GL) of unused carryover water, in comparison with 441GL last year.
“Part of the difference can be attributed to higher rainfall in the 2016/17 season, which led to more water being held over until this irrigation season,” Mr Barber said.
Carryover refers to the arrangement that allows water entitlement holders to take their unused water allocation from this irrigation season into the next season.
“Our water delivery team has also been busy – with more than 1375GL delivered to all customers so far in the 2017/18 year compared with 835GL for the same period in the 2016/17 year,” Mr Barber said.
Strathmerton dairy farmer Greg Rogers said he is one of at least half a dozen irrigators who experienced delays of up to six days to get water.
Mr Rogers said water was generally delivered by GMW within 48 hours of an order being placed.
“It’s terrible at the moment, they can’t get the water to us,” Mr Rogers said.
“I have had to wait five or six days and it’s not good enough.
“I’m just trying to get my pastures going, I’ve got all the seed in the ground and I am just trying to get water on it.”
He said not being able to establish pasture meant stock would continue to have to be fed hay, which was more expensive.
Katunga dairy farmer Paul Stammers said he’d been told for every week’s delay in irrigation, a tonne of autumn feed could be lost.
Mr Stammers said he planned to use 300 megalitres on 160 hectares, in three irrigation rounds, before the close of the season in mid-May.
“Anyone who hasn’t got water on now would be losing feed,” Mr Stammers said.
GMW’s Murray Valley Water Services Committee (WSC) chairman Jason Andrew said there may have been a weed problem on one of the main supply channels.
“GMW know where the hot spots are and they have been going very hard at them, with desilting and weed control,” Mr Andrew said.
Mr Barber said there was high demand for water in all six of the major channels of the Murray Valley system and the Broken Creek.
“Four of these systems, plus the Broken Creek, were operating as normal,” he said.
“However the number five main channel was experiencing high demand – which may have affected customers in Katunga, Yalca or Picola.”
Mr Barber said desilting work and use of a weed boat was currently taking place in Murray Valley.
He said this work in the Murray Valley would not affect any delivery of water to customers.