1. Why is the scheme needed?
The Southern Forests region currently produces over 20% of the states irrigated agricultural production with over 50 different types of fruits and vegetables, beef, sheep, dairy, wine and truffles.
Global climate change modelling shows that the South West will be one of the hardest hit areas in the world. As a result, the state and federal governments and the community need to look to new, innovative ways to safeguard agriculture in the South West region.
The SF Irrigation Scheme (SFIS) allows our region to continue to grow and prosper in the face of a changing climate for decades to come.
2. Why is the scheme so important?
Many sub-catchments in the region are fully allocated (Warren/Donnelly Allocation Plan) and the Department for Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) have indicated that this will be unlikely to change as rainfall predictions suggest further rainfall decline in the future.
The government initiated a study under its Water for Food program to find the best way to source new water for growers in those fully allocated sub-catchments and the region as a whole to protect farmers’ against climate change. The SFIS is the result of that study.
The scheme enables responsible climate change adaption for our region, by implementing a new sustainable method for regional water management. The additional water will improve security of water supplies, especially during drought periods, and will allow expansion in production by growers. The reservoir and pipeline network of the scheme will also improve the way water is captured, stored and distributed. The pipeline infrastructure enables the distribution of water between farms, which becomes even more critical in a drying climate.
The SFIS will result in improved sustainability on farms through implementation of an integrated land and water management framework which includes farm water access plans and a management framework to support farmers in irrigation and land management.
The Scheme will generate jobs and stimulate spending in the local economy through the construction phase and into operations.
If our region is going to continue to produce high quality fresh produce, we must make the best use of our precious water resources.
3. Which catchments is the water coming from?
The Scheme will draw water from the Record Brook catchment and the forested areas of the Upper and Middle Donnelly catchments, which is not easily accessible to landholders.
The Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) has confirmed that the Scheme will not take water from the Manjimup Brook catchment nor from any current water licence holders.
The allocation for the scheme was determined following rigorous scientific modelling by the DWER to ensure the water collection is sustainable and does not impact existing users. Recent restrictions in Variable Take allowances on the Manjimup Brook are unrelated to the scheme. Contact the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation for more information on catchment allocations, contact details can be found at www.dwer.wa.gov.au.
4. Who supports the scheme?
There is strong local support from farmers for the scheme. Eighty-five per cent (7.6 GL) of water entitlements are already pre-sold and there is strong demand for the remaining 15 per cent (1.7GL).
A formal Expressions of Interest held in late 2020 received an overwhelming response for the remaining water, with just under 4GL of water applied for. This demonstrates huge support for the scheme and the need for water within the region. Demand for water was well represented right across the Manjimup-Pemberton growing region.
So far ~70 farm businesses have paid the two per-cent deposit to sign-up to the scheme. Behind the entitlements are more than 70 farming families and businesses, collectively employing hundreds and hundreds of people.
The scheme has the financial support of the State and Federal Governments and the scientific support from WA Department of Water and Environment Regulation plus formal support from the Shire of Manjimup.
There are many local businesses and community members that also support the scheme with direct economic benefits to them during construction and once the scheme is in operation.
5. Where else have schemes like this been delivered?
Tasmania has spent about $500 million on tranches one and two for a total of 15 schemes like the SFIS.
They have been so well received that the Government has allocated a further $70 million of state funds to develop tranche three. These schemes have been accepted as fully sustainable environmentally and economically.
Tasmania is a great example of a place where irrigation schemes have generated a broader benefit for the whole community by improving overall economic activity through job creation, as well as opening up new opportunities for local people through the creation of new public open spaces.
6. Who will benefit from the Scheme?
The SFIS is a project that will benefit the whole community, not just farmers. The benefits include more jobs, improved economic security and possible social benefits such as potential recreational use of the reservoir once constructed.
Water is currently going to be delivered to approximately 90 farms linked to ~70 farm businesses, whom form the membership of the co-operative. These members pay for their water and hence get the benefit of receiving water from the irrigation scheme.
Local businesses including irrigation suppliers and installers, earthmoving contractors, electricians, mechanic, concrete suppliers, labour hire companies, consultants, steel suppliers and fabricators, transport and logistics companies and farm machinery suppliers are expected to benefit from the on-farm works required by farmers.
7. What is the SF Irrigation Co-operative?
The SF Irrigation Co-operative (SFIC) was formed in 2017 to operate and manage the business and operations of providing water to farms within the Manjimup – Pemberton region as part of the State Government’s SF Irrigation Scheme.
There are currently six directors on the board of the Co-operative. All are proudly local people.
There are more than 70 members of the Co-operative. These members represent a significant portion of the area’s growers. Between them they employ hundreds, if not thousands of locals directly and indirectly.
The scheme’s management moved to the Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development (DPIRD) under the Labor government and the cooperative was established in June 2017 to work alongside DPIRD in developing the scheme.
8. How can I receive water?
Water will be distributed via a pipeline network built predominantly through road reserve, State Forest or on the edge of cleared paddocks, to supply ~90 farms spread throughout both the Manjimup and Pemberton districts. Where a pipeline exists, there may be an opportunity for local farmers to tap into the pipeline.
To participate in the SF Irrigation Scheme you must be a co-operative member, a landholder within the area and actively farm.
For further details on Membership rules, refer to the Membership Page.
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