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Irrigation futures - Regional Partnerships address water security in western sydney

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Regional partnerships address water security in Western Sydney …

Regional partnerships address water security in Western Sydney

This article by Basant Maheshwari and Bruce Simmons featured in the Irrigation Australia Journal, Spring 2009, Volume 24, No. 3.

The Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures System Harmonisation program has developed a project titled Water and Irrigation Strategy Enhancement through Regional Partnerships (WISER) to establish a system harmonisation process in Western Sydney, NSW. The project is about working with regional irrigation partners to increase profitability and reduce the environmental footprint of irrigation systems. Here we provide an overview of the System Harmonisation Program and a case study of the WISER project in Western Sydney.

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  • 1. REGIONAL PARTNERSHIPS ADDRESS WATER SECURITY IN WESTERN SYDNEY Basant Maheshwari and Bruce Simmons, CRC for Irrigation Futures and University of Western Sydney The Cooperative Research Centre for Irrigation Futures System Harmonisation program has developed a project titled Water and Irrigation Strategy Enhancement through Regional Partnerships (WISER) to establish a system harmonisation process in Western Sydney, NSW. The project is about working with regional irrigation partners to increase profitability and reduce the environmental footprint of irrigation systems. Here we WISER team leaders discuss future water cycle scenarios with local council provide an overview of the representatives. System Harmonisation Program and a case study of the WISER project in Western Sydney. The WISER project quantity-quality, and the land- water interfaces. It recognises that While water scarcity and climate System harmonisation change are driving issues in the whole is more than the sum of the parts, and is dealing with the System harmonisation is one of two Western Sydney, management of complexity and uncertainty of the major research programs within the current water supplies is catchment system which includes Cooperative Research Centre for fragmented and fails to take into irrigation. Irrigation Futures (CRC IF). account all water resources and productive and environmental System harmonisation is also The program recognises that opportunities. The WISER project helping organisations and irrigation is part of a changing communities question why things complex social-ecological system aims to help irrigation- and water- dependent activities by establishing are being done the way they are, that requires new approaches based and encouraging new and different an integrated water resource on integrating science, policy, approaches to create a better future. planning framework and management and communities to Some of the key questions implementation process. This will deliver on long-term sustainability communities associated with enable the region’s water resources objectives. irrigation are faced with include: to be managed more efficiently for The program promotes environmental protection and • Do we have the right policies and transdisciplinary approaches to irrigation while maximising institutions in place? improving communication between commercial opportunities and • Are we using appropriate organisations as well as transparent, social benefits. economic models that account objective decision-making to for impacts on the environment support planning and management Dealing with the hard stuff to support long term decision of irrigation within a catchment. At System harmonisation is dealing making? its core is working with regional with the high risk, ‘hard stuff’ • If current trends in population, irrigation partners to improve that everyone says is needed but water demand and energy use management of surface and no one is doing. It is working at persist, where will we get our groundwater resources and satisfy the interfaces; the socio- water and food from? environmental and consumptive economic-ecological, surface • Should we encourage more local demand in catchments. water-groundwater, water food production through careful28 IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA
  • 2. CRCIF design of peri-urban zones that maintain ‘horticultural precincts’ within an overall mosaic structure?• Are we thinking about ‘systems’ and ‘long-term’ for the benefit of future generations?Working together for water securitySystem harmonisation hashighlighted that the core challengesbeing faced by irrigation in particularand society in general cannot besolved in isolation. A systems approach and strongcollaboration across a broad range ofpartners is needed to secure waterinto the future. Experience shows that this is noteasy, especially when many of ourapproaches to date have been basedon ‘competition’. Collaboration, by contrast, requires Changing Land Use in the South Creek Catchment, Western Sydney.a change in attitude, commitmentand hard work, and takes time tobuild the necessary trust. Effective fields and reserves, which require a towards alternative water sourcescollaboration is ultimately about lot of water for maintenance. (such as recycled and storm water),relationships based on genuine caring Water is the single most important indoor and outdoor, which do notand alliances that share risks and factor in maintaining future require drinking water quality. In thissolutions, and is essential to help sustainability of the South Creek way, the study will complement andcreate a better future for all. Catchment, in particular water for support the Western Sydney Recycled irrigation and river health. There is Water Initiative and the NSWRegional irrigation partnerships therefore a need to investigate and Government’s actions to secure waterThe System Harmonisation Program tap alternative non-potable supplies. supplies for greater Sydney in generalestablished key regional irrigation This is where the CRC IF’s WISER and Western Sydney in particular.partnerships across Australia to comes in. A team of multi- Commenting on the achievementsground its work in a range of disciplinary researchers is working of WISER, Chairman Kevin Rozzolidifferent irrigation issues. These closely with relevant stakeholders said, “The WISER project has unitedinclude the Ord near Kununurra, the and local and State government agencies in Western Sydney toKatherine-Douglas-Daly area, the agencies to provide key information address the major problem of longlower Burdekin southeast of that may help in planning access to term water security, with all itsTownsville, Macintyre Brook these additional regional water collateral impact on quality of life,southwest of Brisbane, Western resources and the on-ground actions employment and catchment health.Sydney, Coleambally near Wagga- necessary to activate the plans. It makes all the effort worthwhile.”Wagga, and southeast South Based on the existing potable water In researching systemAustralia. supplies and current water use harmonisation in peri-urban areas, as practices, a macro analysis for the illustrated in the case of WesternChallenges for the WISER project South Creek Catchment indicates Sydney, there has been a realisationin Western Sydney that about 27 GL a year of potable of the differences in water cycleThe population in Western Sydney is water is being used indoors and management to rural or urbanset to increase significantly over the another 14 GL a year for outdoor situations alone.next 20 years. Proposed northwest purposes (on backyards/gardens, This aspect is further beingand southwest growth centres will playing fields and in examined within the CRC IF’s Systemadd about 600,000 people to the agriculture/horticulture). Harmonisation Program and will400,000 already living in the South This is in addition to about 12 GL contribute to ongoing discussionsCreek Catchment, which includes sourced from other areas for outdoor and planning.significant areas of Blacktown, use.Camden, Hawkesbury, Liverpool and By 2030, when the two growth InformationPenrith councils. Along with natural centres are fully developed, the More information on the CRC IF’s Systemincreases within existing land use demand for water for non-potable use Harmonisation Program can be found onzones, this will place greater pressure is estimated to be more than 40 the CRC IF’s website aton water that is available for non- GL/yr. This increase will represent www.irrigationfutures.org.au. Forpotable uses. This poses a threat to added pressure on currently information on the WISER project, visitcommerce, industry and, most identified potable water supplies. www.irrigationfutures.org.au/wiser orimportantly, agriculture. Also at risk The WISER project will contribute contact Basant Maheshwari, on 02 4570are recreational sites, such as playing greatly to moving the balance 1235 or b.maheshwari@uws.edu.au. IRRIGATION AUSTRALIA 29