The Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association (GVIA) represents in excess of 400 water entitlement holders in the Gwydir Valley.
Our water entitlement holders are some of the most progressive in the world, actively engaged in, and innovating irrigated agriculture. From broadacre crops such as cotton to tree crops such as pecans, oranges and olives, our industry is diverse and productive. We are all acutely aware that reliability of water in the valley is low, and thus strive to Make Every Drop Count for the producer, the community and the environment.
Our vision is for the local irrigation industry, the environment and the Gwydir Valley community to have a secure, vibrant future, with the GVIA recognised as an industry leader.
The Gwydir Valley, centred around the town of Moree in north west NSW is an extremely productive agricultural region. Agriculture employs 20-30% of the population and contributes an estimate 7.8% of NSW’s total agricultural production. Irrigated agriculture is particularly important, contributing significantly to the social and economic wellbeing of the region.
The irrigated olive industry was initiated in the Gwydir Valley over 25 years ago. Olives are a vertically integrated industry
with the nationally recognised Gwydir Grove Olives the largest local producer and processor. In recent years the number of olive
trees has declined as some producers have switched from olives into pecans.
Oranges are a new irrigation industry in the Gwydir Valley, with the majority of the trees planted since 2005. It is currently expanding
with an expected area of 350Ha to be under production by 2020. The citrus industry in the Gwydir Valley is part of the locally owned and vertically
integrated Grove Juice business.
The pecan industry is an important irrigation industry for the Gwydir Valley. Trawalla, owned and operated by Stahmann Farms is the largest
in the region producing approximately 90% of Australia’s pecans. Australia is the fourth largest global producer of pecans. Stahmann Farms operate
the country's only commercial pecan shelling, value-adding and packing plant.
The Gwydir Valley is a diverse broadacre cropping region producing a range of both summer and winter crops. The primary winter crops include; chickpeas,
wheat, barley, and more recently canola. While summer plantings include sorghum, faba beans, mung beans, maize and sunflowers. The majority of the broadacre
cropping area is dryland.
Cotton is the most significant irrigated crop in the Gwydir Valley with an average of 70,000Ha. It is also an important dryland crop with an average of 79,000Ha annually.
The area planted can fluctuate from year to year, being dependant on either available irrigation water and seasonal rainfall.
Lucerne and Hay are niche crops in the Gwydir Valley covering an estimated 4,500Ha. Lucerne is produced primarily on smaller blocks and is irrigated by bore water
entitlements. Hay production includes Lucerne, cereals and pastures.
The turf industry has been a part of the irrigation industry of the Gwydir Valley for almost 20 years, but there are only two producers in the valley. It covers a very small
area of only 20Ha and is irrigated by bore water entitlements. The primary species produced is Buffalo.
The Gwydir Wetlands are a system of terminal delta wetlands, located downstream of the Gwydir River approximately 45kms west of Moree in north west NSW. They are recognised for their
unique vegetation and bird breeding potential. The wetlands are estimated to consist of approximately 6,829Ha of semi-permanent wetland and 77,949Ha of floodplain wetland.
WaterNSW monitor 51 river gauge locations in the Gwydir River and streams(418) using telemetry with data accessible in real time. These sites collect a range of information from flow rate,
discharge volume and river heights and assist WaterNSW in their role of water delivery operators whilst providing an indication of water availability.
All water in the Gwydir is managed by water sharing plans established progressively since 2004. Currently 19% of long term Gwydir river flows and 85% of sustainable yield of the Lower Gwydir
aquifer are available for irrigation. This has been reduced over time following reforms and water recovery for environment.
The are a number of groundwater sources including the Lower Gwydir aquifer used for irrigation and the Great Artesian Basin, including recharge zones. WaterNSW monitor
levels via 26 monitoring sites with data accessible in real time.
Groundwater provides reliable irrigation water, quality drinking water for towns and properties and is one of the region’s major tourism attractions.
Copeton Dam is located on the Gwydir River upstream of Bingara on the north-west slopes of NSW. It is one of the largest inland dams in NSW with a capacity of 1,364,000
megalitres of water. It was initiated in 1966 to provide town water supplies and to boost irrigated agricultural production in the Gwydir Valley.
NSW Department has announced the starting allocations for water users for the new water year 2020-2021 with all water users (Stock and
Domestic, Towns, High Security, Supplementary and Unregulated in the surface water systems and Groundwater) receiving 100% except
General Security users. General Security water users have access to ongoing carryover water of 12GL for water users and 31GL for
environmental water holders via the NSW DPIE-W.
The Water Management Act 2000 in Section 4A
describes overland flow as water including floodwater, rainfall runoff and urban stormwater that his flowing over or lying on the ground as a
result of rain or any other kind of precipitation. That means that anyone who has infrastructure developments to capture, manage
and/or store water on their farms and who irrigate with this water, can also be collecting overland flow, not just those in the five
northern valleys who are "floodplain harvesters". This definition is regardless of any other requirements of other NSW
regulations (such as the NSW EPA Act) and various licence conditions, to capture and retain water on farm to avoid environmental
Unfortunately in NSW there are a few remaining long-term legacy issues, the fact water management is coordinated through two legislative
frameworks is one of them. That means that some approvals, rules and extraction is managed according to rules within the original NSW
Water Act 1912 but the majority are within the contemporary regime of the NSW Water Management Act 2000.
Government inaction has meant that the majority of irrigation infrastructure and flood work approvals are yet to be converted into the new
legislative framework. This has been an on-going issue for more than 20-years. But this is important when considering the
"legal status" of floodplain harvesting in NSW, which is one of the last forms of extraction to be converted from the descriptive
allowances in the Water Act 1912 into volumetric licences in the Water Management Act 2000, which is due for completed next year. Just
because its not managed or represented within the Water Management Act, doesn't make it illegal, if its allowed under the Water Act
This is why its important the Healthy Floodplains Project is completed on time next year, to bring this historical form of extraction into
the same licensing framework as others and enable government to better regulate, measure and report on it. Its proper implementation
will cap extraction within historic limits, ensure the sustainability of the industry but also leaving more water on the floodplain.