Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association

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.

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Latest DAM Capacity

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Water Allocations

The Gwydir River System

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Olives

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.

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Oranges

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.

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Pecans

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.

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Broadacre Cropping

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.

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Cotton

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.

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Lucerne

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.

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Turf

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.

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The Gwydir Wetlands

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.

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Gwydir River - Gravesend Monitoring Gauge

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.

Water NSW Real Time Data

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Water Management

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.

WATER SHARING PLANS AND OR WATER AVAILABILITY

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Groundwater Monitoring Network

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.

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Copeton Dam

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.

WATER SHARING PLANS AND OR WATER AVAILABILITY

Latest News and Events

 
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DPIEW have announced the latest water availability with a 40% allocation bringing this years total to 160.4%; general security accounts have a 150% limit and the environmental contingency allowance has 200%.  All of these accounts are full, with 36,100 megalitres of surplus unallocated in Copeton Dam.

The Dam remains steady at 96% with deliveries from some stream flows occurring, dam releases equalled inflows of 215,000 megalitres with around 64,000 megalitres ordered by licence holders during the time.    

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The Natural Resources Commission is undertaking their audit and review of the Water Sharing Plan for the Gwydir Unregulated Water Sources 2012, due every 10-years. Previous reviews by the NRC have been controversial as in the 5-year review of the Barwon Darling (here) resulting in significant changes including, active management, increased commence to pump thresholds and new restrictions following drought periods called resumption of flow rules.

The key areas as guided by the NRC are:

  • Environmental outcomes: examples of how the plan rules provide for environmental outcomes.
  • Social outcomes: examples of how has having ‘a plan’ allowed for improve social outcomes for you, your region and community.
  • Economic outcomes: examples of the value of a licence, clear rules and a trading market.
GVIA will be preparing a submission which is due on 6 February 2022.  You can provide your own submission or to see more see the NRC Review.

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The NSW Government finally issued an exemption and outlined the process to apply for water users who do not have enough network connectivity (are in a black spot) to install a telemetry unit on their compliant water meter site. This exemption comes after raising this issue since 2017 and NRAR issuing letter of advice to water users who had not been able to be fully compliant because of this issue. 

There are three steps to apply for this exemption, which allow water users or duly qualified persons to identify whether a site is within network coverage and to apply using the standardised form.  Please ensure this exemption is added as an update to your file in the DQP portal so that all agencies have access. 

We are continuing to work through the remaining outstanding issues that require an exemption. 

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WaterNSW have eased Copeton Dam releases and they remain steady since 14 December, with 1,500 megalitres per day being released.

Flood warnings have ceased for the Gwydir Valley in response, with the tail of the released water expected to pass through all of the effluent creeks and streams now that flow rates are within the scope of operations of the river infrastructure.

For information on river heights, visit WaterInsights. 

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As flood waters continue to move along our river systems now reaching western communities such as Mungindi, Collarenebri and Walgett and spill operations for major storages continuing, including the recent addition of Menindee Lakes.  This flooding is occurring as the NSW Upper House report into Floodplain Harvesting[1] declared the historical practice is legal and should be measured and licenced.  

“The community rightly expect, is that whenever industry has access to water, it is only to our share, that the limits are policed and that it is very transparent, even in floods when there is water everywhere” she said.

“We agree and that is why we’ve supported the licencing of Floodplain Harvesting -  a long-standing, historical form of take that happens when rivers and our floodplains are spilling, so that all forms of take are consistently managed in our valley” she said.

“Our position was supported by the Upper House Committee report which highlighted the need for measurement of storages and our rivers to properly account for water use and licencing to ensure all limits in state and Federal legislation could be achieved and monitored”.

“These are all key elements of the reform which the majority of stakeholders agree, it is what the community expects and should be implemented state-wide” she said.

[1] https://www.parliament.nsw.gov.au/lcdocs/inquiries/2818/Report%20no.%201%20-%20Select%20Committee%20-%20Floodplain%20harvesting%20-%20December%202021.pdf

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The Gwydir Valley is currently experiencing a once in a decade event with Copeton Dam filling and spilling, along with most rivers and streams flowing naturally. 

Zara Lowien, Executive Officer of Gwydir Valley Irrigators Association who represents water users in the valley said whilst it is rare to see Copeton Dam this full and spilling, this signifies the region is at the start of the boom, of our historical boom and bust cycle here in the Gwydir Valley.

“Copeton Dam filling and our rivers constantly flowing, as they have for nearly a year now, is exactly what happens here when it finally does rain” she said.

“These conditions are a far cry from those a few years ago, when environmental water and high security deliveries were the only sources of water keeping parts of our rivers flowing, while others just didn’t flow at all” she said.

Making Every Drop Count

Securing a future for the Gwydir Valley through Irrigated Agriculture.