Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District (GMW) has established itself as the largest rural water provider in Victoria, Australia. Everyday, GMW manages and delivers over 70 percent of Victoria’s stored water and half the area’s underground water. On average GMW delivers close to 2 million mega liters of water to rural, urban, and environmental users over a 68,000 square kilometer region—an area almost one-third the size of Victoria.
Within GMW’s area are 1,200 dairy farms, which provide 21 percent of Australia’s milk, and 400,000 hectares of irrigated crops, such as wheat, barley, triticale, corn, and oilseeds. When combined, both industries provide $5.9 billion of value to the local and national economy. All in all, GMW has over 14, 131 gravity irrigators, 676 irrigators on pump systems, 11,071 surface water diverters, 8,786 groundwater diverts, and 1,269 domestic and stock customers. To supply water to its thousands of farmers, GMW operates 10,900 kilometers of channels, pipelines, and drains and 24 storages, making GMW Australia’s largest water delivery network.
It would be easy to rest on its laurels; however, GMW is not letting off the gas. Instead, the water group is turning to the future, working to create a better system and provide a better experience for its customers, while still setting records. Recently, GMW has decided to undertake a $2 billion Connections Project, funded by the Victorian and commonwealth governments. The project is poised to be the most significant upgrade to the region’s irrigation infrastructure in its 100-year history and is the largest irrigation modernization project in Australia.
During the project, GMW will automate much of the water delivery network and replace aging irrigation infrastructure, meet measurement compliance requirements, and ensure equitable access to maintain the true value of water while also reducing the GMD footprint and making water use sustainable by preparing for future challenges and opportunities. The project is creating hundreds of jobs for local contractors, designers, manufacturers, and other water-related workers. All in all, the renovation project employs approximately 16 percent of GMW’s 748 fulltime-equivalent staff.
Recently, drones have established themselves as a valuable asset for GMW. While they have not became an industrywide tool, drones enable GMW to improve its awareness and understanding of asset condition, which improves safety and reduces costs for the organization. GMW stands firm that this new technology is a cost-effective means of supporting the core business and improving its commitment to water users.
While this forward thinking may seem enough, GMW also manages a number of storages and weirs on behalf of the Murray-Darling Basin Authority (MDBA). MDBA was established in 2007 as an independent expertise-based agency with the sole responsibility of planning the basin’s water resources and ensuring that the best interests of the basin as a whole are met. This includes managing water sustainability and quality, educating the public, and providing water rights information. As part of the agreement, GMW operates salinity mitigation works on the Murray and is the Victorian constructing authority for the MDBA.
While thinking of the future, GMW also remains well connected to the community. As part of its day-to-day operations, GMW maintains safe boating access at 14 of the 24 storages. This includes managing 721 houseboat licenses and the leasing of 11 caravan parks, 62 clubs, and 80 public recreation areas next to the lakes and dams.
Through their devotion to the community, the environment, and innovative technology, GMW has distinguished itself as an industry leader in Australia and will continue to innovate to meet the demands of tomorrow.