Ross McPherson is one of the driving forces behind the development of the Connections Project. The leader of the McPherson Media Group knows irrigation is the lifeblood of our communities. It’s why when he recognised the delivery network was failing during the millennium drought he didn’t sit back and hope. He acted.
“I think it’s been a great success in terms of productivity. And those who have taken advantage of on-farm efficiencies have been able to automate so many systems. It’s enabling labour savings and time savings and continuing efficiency. It’s powered a huge leap in irrigation efficiency.”
“We were in the middle of the drought and it was getting pretty severe,” Ross remembers.
“We had a couple of years where there was no (water) allocation at all.
“People were selling their water rights, selling their cows and getting out. It was dire straits.”
He knew something had to be done. For the sustainability of our farmers, our agricultural industry and our region – change was essential.
“We could see this patchwork quilt was developing in the irrigation area and you could see what was going to happen if it continued,” he said.
“On a channel with 20 irrigators you might end up with two at the end and, in theory, they’ve got to pay for the upkeep of the whole system.”
But the drought wasn’t the only challenge in the Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMID).
GMW’s infrastructure was aging and inefficient. When the full water allocation could be supplied, an estimated 900GL of water was wasted each year to leakage, seepage and evaporation.
“There was 2600GL coming out of Eildon, but we were only delivering about 1400GL so the rest was wasted - or at least, not accounted for,” Ross said.
“It was a huge amount of water, about twice what Melbourne uses in a year.
“We were blown away by that, and thought, what if we can save a portion of it and sell it to fund an upgrade and rationalise our system.