Over-extraction of water from the Murray River has led to the degradation of many areas of significant environmental value along the river’s 2,500 km. The river basin is also home to an agricultural area that produces over one-third of Australia’s food supply.
The Living Murray program was established to restore health to key areas of the river system through environmental water recovery, while balancing this with the competing need for sustainable agricultural production. A key focus of the program was the modernisation of inefficient irrigation infrastructure.
The Shepparton Irrigation Area, typical of many areas in the basin, lost 30% of the water it diverted from the river during transmission. It also provided a poor service to irrigators, which resulted in inefficient on-farm water use. The main problems included:
“Automation of water delivery has provided better control, monitoring, improved efficiency and improved service to customers.”
The Living Murray funded the modernisation of the Shepparton Irrigation Area in return for a portion of water recovered through improvements in delivery efficiency. The core of the project involved implementing Rubicon’s Demand-Integrated Network Control solution throughout the majority of the district’s channel network as well as rationalisation of underutilised assets, some channel remediation and some pipelining.
The Shepparton Solution involved:
Automating customer-facing operations
Rubicon’s software enables Shepparton customers to place water orders via internet or phone, 24 hours a day, and they now benefit from a system that can supply water with as little as one hour’s notice. On receipt of an order, the software automatically manages all aspects of planning and scheduling, from verifying that the customer is entitled to the requested water, through to instructing the farmer’s service point to open and close at the allotted time and requested flow rate. Actual usage is automatically measured and recorded and made available on the internet and phone to help customers manage their water better.
Automating channel regulation
Using a radio telemetry network, Shepparton’s FlumeGates are in constant communication with adjoining FlumeGates and with a central server, sharing their accurate measurements of levels and flows in real time.
NeuroFlo software uses this information and detailed mathematical models of hydraulic behaviour in each reach to coordinate the control all the FlumeGates in the network. Only the exact amount of water required to meet downstream needs is released. By matching delivery with demand, spills are eliminated and water level fluctuations are minimised resulting in consistent high flows for farmers.
The two year Shepparton modernisation project was completed in late 2009 and has resulted in major operational improvements:
The 29% improvement in delivery efficiency has resulted in the annual recovery of 39 gigalitres of water. Of this, 29 gigalitres have been permanently transferred to the Living Murray program for environmental use. This water is retained in storage and is periodically released into the river system in a controlled manner to maximise environmental benefit to downstream wetlands and lakes.
The Living Murray’s annual environmental watering plan outlines how the recovered water is used each year and can be downloaded here.