At last week’s GITA conference in Brisbane Australia John Culleton, CEO of the Colleambally irrigation area set about busting some commonly held myths about irrigation. Colleambally irrigates 300,000 hectares in Australia’s Murray Darling Basin where farmers grow rice, maize, wheat, vegetables and livestock depending on the amount of water available.
Flexibility is the name of the game and Coleambally is using geospatial technology to reduce water wastage in its open channel system. It has developed the national benchmark for hotspot irrigation mapping in Australia. A sensor dragged along the bottom of the canals on a boom detects brackish water from seepage where the canal needs to be relined.
Maps of where former streams flowed close to channels are another indicator of possible leaks. These help Colleambally spend maintenance money in the right place along their 1,200 kms of canals and channels.
Myth 1 - Open channels are inefficient and pipes are always better.
Culleton explained that pipes are good for permanent plantings like orchards which require high reliability of water all the year round. But they are not so good for moving large volumes of water quickly as is needed after heavy rain in the Murray Darling.
It would cost A$ 1 billion to pipe the entire Coleambally area – sure, that would save water but the financials don’t stack up. Colleambally farmers take advantage of water when it is available, they can get it within 24 hours of order over the web or by phone (compared to 21 days in some other regions) which means they order only what they really need.Myth
2 - Irrigation farmers are not interested in modernisationHis farmers have embraced technology, ordering water online and installing on farm soil sensors that indicate precisely when more water is needed. Eventually sensors on a plant will trigger an automatic water order, but only if the weather sensors say no rain is coming.
Farmers who had never seen a laptop are doing water accounting online, just like the rest of do banking.Fully automatic solar powered gates adjust the flow and communicate with other gates.
They are able to take extra flood water very quickly when it comes available while other less automated irrigation regions miss out.Myth
3 - All modernisation is government fundedFarmers stumped up $104 million of the $120 million spent between 1999 and 2010. They and the environment are reaping the benefits. 60,000 Megalitres of water per year have been saved since 2006. This is now distributed back to farmers or sold.
Expanding on the conference theme “Smarter infrastructure for a sustainable future” Culleton said geospatial information also helps Colleambally fulfil the onerous government reporting requirements. Reporting to no less than seven different government departments and agencies last year cost his organisation $140,000.Read More - More http://new.colyirr.com.au/
Jose Diacono is a spatial media specialist based in Australia (www.communica.com.au).