Water storage reality

Water storage reality

Storing water from the Mitchell River’s winter flows is almost a reality for Lindenow Valley farmers who are building dams to help shore up their water supply over summer.

For the Bulmer family, who farm more  than 1000 acres of vegetables, and usually produce millions of lettuces over summer, their dam on the north of the Mitchell River is the culmination of many years of lobbying.

“This is the result of more than a decade working towards water security in the Lindenow Valley and the region,” Bill Bulmer said.

“This scheme will benefit the whole region.” 

It has been the Federal Government that has invested $10 million on a dollar-for-dollar basis for farmers to build their water security storages, administered through Rural Finance.

The scheme, only for irrigators in the Lindenow Valley, provides up to 50 per cent to a maximum of $2 million for water infrastructure projects.

“The whole idea of the grant is to secure your business so that you can get through the summer period,” Mr Bulmer said.

The Bulmer’s dam will have a capacity of 260Ml at a cost of $1.6 million and a total budget spend of over $2m including piping and pump to the river.

Mr Bulmer has championed the valley’s water security cause since the millennial drought when a group of veggie farmers gathered in the Bulmers’ shed to try and come up with a plan to ensure water security, particularly over hard summers.

A meeting was held with representatives from Southern Rural Water, the shire council, East Gippsland Water and the Catchment Management Authority which formed a working group.

Mr Bulmer can reel off various projects that were looked at over that time, including one project to implement 700 bores on the Red Gum Plains to enable the aquifer to be recharged from the river and use that water when needed.

“We explored many avenues,” Mr Bulmer said.

“But none of the ideas stacked up.”

He said a plan to construct off-stream storage on Stoney Creek at Glenaladale of 17 to 20 gigalitres is still sitting gathering dust somewhere in the Victorian Water Minister’s office.

The Stoney Creek dam was set to cost $85 million until a visit to the Tasmanian Irrigation Corporation, which has formed water security across Tassie with short river course dams and irrigation schemes, who said the storage could be built for $50 million.

“The Stoney Creek project was a good concept, it stacked up environmentally, socially and economically,” Mr Bulmer said.

“But the government went into caretaker mode at that time and then Labor took over and it’s never been seen since.”

Other farmers in the region have struck trouble with the State Government’s On Farm Water Infrastructure Program.

Member for Gippsland East, Tim Bull, said there was a “funding drought”.

“I’m aware of up to 18 eligible applicants who have been either been left out of pocket for drought proofing projects they have already commenced or have been told to wait until more funding can be obtained,” Mr Bull said.

“Many farmers in East Gippsland are affected by a lack of water for livestock and while there has been enough rain to support pasture growth, so far there has been little run off into creeks and dams.

“It is critical that the drought support measures that have been implemented to date are not allowed to fail because the government’s attention is being diverted elsewhere.

“I have asked the minister to honour existing funding commitments to drought affected farmers for works in progress and to confirm that additional funds will be provided to enable this program to continue.”

IMAGE: Bill Bulmer, of Bulmers Farms, in front of the 260-megalitre dam that will be used to store water for irrigating vegetables over summer. The base of the wall is 120-metres wide. K331-3037