Making the most of water in the Avon

Limited water resources are a problem faced by many farmers in the WA wheatbelt, especially as the demands for water for stock, spraying and domestic use increase. The Avon Catchment Council (ACC) is attempting to turn this around by providing support to farmers that enables them to improve water use efficiency on their land.

Chantelle Noack from the ACC said that “There is a strong need to improve water management and self sufficiency, as many farming areas within the Avon River Basin have inadequate self sufficient water supplies and rely heavily on the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme.”

Improved water management on farms in the Avon River Basin will contribute to reducing annual water deficits and improving the water balance of the region. Increased water harvesting will also reduce flooding and erosion, while retaining adequate stream flow for environmental requirements.

In the Morbinning catchment in Beverley and the Woolundra catchment in Kellerberrin/Doodlakine, 15 farmers are involved in improving their own self sufficiency through the Avon Catchment Councils Water Management Project. Implementing Water Management Plans on farms will reduce their reliance on scheme water by increasing the capture and use of rain water that falls on their properties.

These farmers have recognised that poor management of rainwater is contributing to erosion, waterlogging and salinity in their area. Mike and Sue McFarlane of the Woolundra Catchment have installed three rainwater tanks and use harvested/captured water for stock, spraying and domestic use.

Mike explained that by implementing a water management plan he is able to better utilise the water that falls on his property. He can see where his property fits in at the catchment scale in terms of reducing the amount of water that needs to be imported into the Woolundra catchment, and reducing issues associated with a rising water table.

In 2005 the McFarlane’s started installing new rainwater tanks as part of a water management plan. When the ACC introduced them to the 50% incentive available they were able to implement more of their water management plan, realising their goals several years earlier than planned.

“I intend to use the water in the tanks efficiently and not allow them to overflow, making the most of both the ACC and my investment” Mike said. An added bonus of the extra rainwater is that Mike believes the sheep actually prefer rainwater over scheme, which hopefully means that they will be more productive.

Chantelle Noack said that “To date seven landholders have taken up the incentives with six rainwater tanks and one solar pump installed. There are still opportunities for other farmers in the Woolundra and Morbinning catchment to make the most of this opportunity and implement water saving techniques on their farms.”

The ACC and GHD have developed Best Management Criteria for surface water which will provide more information about improving surface water management. This information will be available at upcoming Landscape Water Workshops, contact Chantelle Noack on 9690 2250 for more information.

This project is supported by investment from the Avon Catchment Council, through the Australian and Western Australian Government’s National Action Plan for Salinity and Water Quality program.