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Vic needs stock and domestic water plan, says VFF

Victorian farmers are calling on the State Government to deliver a stock and domestic water plan in the wake of long-term decline in south-east Australia’s rainfall runoff.

“Since the early 1990s we’ve seen a decline in rainfall runoff that has led to more frequent water shortages, forcing farmers to cut stock numbers, cart water or put in emergency pipelines,” VFF Stock and Domestic Water Taskforce Chairman Peter Delahunty said.

“We’re grateful that the State Government has stepped in to fund a number of feasibility studies into stock and domestic water pipelines across the state. But now we need to take the next step and deliver a stock and domestic water strategy for the state.”

The Victorian State Government needs to ensure the State Water Plan currently being developed considers stock and domestic water shortages. The draft plan released in May did not do this and the VFF believes a stock and domestic water strategy is the way to do this.

The VFF’s call for a stock and domestic water plan follow a VFF survey which showed stock water shortages had forced farmers to reduce stock numbers, sell stock when the market is not ideal and expend resources on sourcing alternative water supplies.

Nearly 300 farmers across Victoria completed the survey in the month between May 6 and June 6, underlining the importance of the issue among primary producers.

Western and Central Victoria were revealed as areas most vulnerable to shortages and have been hit hardest in recent times, but farmers across the state have experienced shortages in the past 24 months.

VFF Stock and Domestic Water Taskforce Chairman Peter Delahunty said the survey results supported the organisation’s call for a stock and domestic water strategy.

“Stock water shortages are becoming more prevalent right across Victoria – regions we thought were safe from shortages ran out of water last summer,” Mr Delahunty said.

“We need long-term vision from government to help the agriculture industry adapt to seasonal variability and changing rainfall patterns.”

Farmers who responded to the survey identified numerous benefits of a secure stock water supply, including:

  • Healthy stock;
  • Domestic benefits;
  • Maintaining stock numbers over summer;
  • Maintaining stock to take advantage of market conditions;
  • Less stress;
  • Peace of mind; and
  • Having good quality water for spraying

“The value of a secure good quality stock and domestic water supply applies to the farm business as well as the farming family,” Mr Delahunty said.

“Secure water can benefit the health of your stock as well as the wellbeing of yourself and your family.”
The survey results demonstrate the security provided by large scale scheme stock water systems such as the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline, Northern Mallee Pipeline and the Goulburn Murray Water system, as well as smaller schemes such as the Normanville, Eppalock and East Loddon Pipelines.

Opportunity exists for the Victorian State Government to fund and encourage on-farm and off-farm water infrastructure to fill the gaps in Victoria’s stock water supply network and assist Victorian farmers in preparing for dry conditions.

“This investment could boost Victorian farm productivity through the delivery of more secure stock water sources – such an initiative would greatly benefit the red meat, dairy and intensive industries,” Mr Delahunty said.

A summary of results is provided below.

Summary of results

  • Western Victoria and Central Victoria are the most vulnerable regions to stock water shortages and have been most affected by recent dry conditions
  • The Wimmera has the most secure stock water supplies delivered through the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline
  • North West Victoria benefits from the Wimmera-Mallee and Northern Mallee Pipeline system whilst Northern Victoria benefits from smaller schemed water systems
  • South West Victoria is heavily reliant on groundwater which is considered a secure stock water source
  • A high proportion of farmers in Western Victoria, Central Victoria and South West Victoria have carted water in the past 24 months
  • Benefits of secure stock water supplies identified by farmers included domestic benefits, personal wellbeing benefits (i.e. less stress), the ability to maintain stock numbers during dry periods and better quality water for spraying

Survey results in numbers

  • 74% of Wimmera farmers consider their stock water secure
  • 48% of Central Victorian and 50% of Western Victorian sheep producers reduced stock numbers in the past 24 months
  • 32% of farmers in Central Victoria, 21% in South West Victoria and 21 % in Western Victoria have carted water in the past 24 months
  • 60% of Western Victorian farmers have sought alternate supplies in the past 24 months
  • 43% of Victorian farmers utilise bores for stock water
  • 34% of Victorian farmers have fully reticulated their on-farm stock water systems

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