In 1912, the Australian government formed Murrumbidgee Irrigation (MI) following the commissioning of Burrinjuck Dam in the Snowy Mountains. The intent of the project was to construct a system that would make inland Australia a drought-proof major food producer and that would create jobs for an expanding nation. Today, MI has done just that and much more.
Servicing over 3,300 landholdings that are owned by over 2,500 customers within a 670,000-hectare area in the Murray-Darling basin, MI has developed into a large and thriving irrigation district. MI’s core operation is the delivery of water through an extensive integrated supply and drainage network ranging over 140,000 hectares. The system comprises 250 kilometers of cement-lined channels, 100 kilometers of piped channels, and over 3,100 kilometers of earthen channels, totaling well over 3,500 kilometers of supply channels.
The MI system receives its water from the Burrinjuck and Blowering Dams. The water is released by the New South Wales Water governing body into the Murrumbidgee River. MI operates two main offtakes from the river: the Main Canal, which can divert 6.6 billion liters a day, and the Sturt Canal, which can divert 2.2 billion liters a day.
MI has a strong focus on safety, not only for its customers and its 180 employees, but also for the community. It runs a public service campaign that focuses on canal safety. Outside the industry, few know just how dangerous canals can be. They are not a safe place to swim. There are many dangers like varying water depths, submerged objects, and snakes, as well as dangers that have arisen due to new technology, such as slippery polyethylene linings and automated structures that can trap and drown individuals.
The water MI provides is used to grow produce and manufacture local products. The reliable quantity and quality of water from the Murrumbidgee River has helped the region distinguish itself as a diverse and highly productive agricultural region. The area has become a leader in Australian cotton, wine, citrus, walnut, and almond production. As a matter of fact, the area is the self-proclaimed “food bowl” of Australia. Today, the region is a progressive and changing landscape, with a range of innovative farming enterprises, a diversity of crop types, and a dynamic processing sector. MI’s vision—Growing our future together—Customers, Company, Community—recognizes the importance of irrigation to the region and the nation and MI’s responsibility to customers, company, and the community.
The company is currently undertaking the most ambitious renewal and expansion program in its 106-year history. It is replacing aging water delivery infrastructure, relining and refurbishing channels, and automating the main supply canals. These works are aimed at using water efficiently and are mostly funded by the Australian government. MI is positioned to grow and support regional prosperity, confirming the region’s status as the most productive irrigation area in the nation.
MI will continue to work with its customers and the community to create opportunities and to continue to turn Australia’s once-arid land into a lush, innovative garden for the country.