New Lead Agency Role For DLWC

February 11, 2000 The Rural News

After more than 65 years of being at the forefront of irrigation sustainability issues in the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area, the Department of Land and Water Conservation will be adopting a "lead agency" role with key community groups in future.

DLWC acting manager of resource access, Ary Van Der Lely has outlined where the department has been and where it will position itself in the future in what was a final annual report to the Irrigation Research and Extension Committee meeting in Griffith.

Looking back Mr Van Per Lely said the department has been to the fore addressing sustainability issues on the MIA since 1931.

Its staff have been involved in channel seepage investigations, the drainage recommendations, tube-well pumping, land classification for rice and other crops and soil surveys. Thousands of holes have been drilled to backup the store of information on which to base recommendations.

Critical research topics have been dealt with, sometimes at world class level. DLWC has interacted with the community at all levels and provided advice regarding waterlogging I issues, soil salinity, water quality and downstream issues.

Mr Van Der Lely explained that because of the role as a water manager the department had developed and implemented policies, initially on its own, and later together with community groups.

The contacts with, the feedback from the Irrigation Research and Extension drainage committee has always played a significant role in this function.

These roles have now been taken over by Murrumbidgee and Coleambally Irrigation.

'While DLWC is receding to a more background role in this area, this does not mean it will not be interested in the well being of the irrigation area and its people, said Mr Van Der Lely.

"To the contrary, PLWC has provided a very large input into the development of Land and Water Management Plans for the irrigation areas and hopefully soon the implementation of these will get into full swing.

'The DLWC will he a lead agency in the review of the effectiveness of implementation of these plans and in that role will interact with the key community groups. "In the past when there was a problem of a farm. the landholder would usually contact the Water Conservation and Irrigation Commission or the Water Resources Commission, and departmental officers would attend and try to help," Mr Van Der Lely recalled.

"Our reputation grew". "However, times changed and after the early 1980s most advisory functions except those related to rice environmental monitoring were taken over the Department of Agriculture."

Mr Van Per Lely said over the last couple of years, DLWC in consultation with the community has commenced to implement water reforms State-wide, with the aim of achieving optimal sharing of the water resource between all its uses and users.

The package of reforms, which is very extensive. is still in progress.

At the moment the resource sharing in unregulated streams, the farm dams policy, and the ground water management policy are receiving the most attention.

Mr Van Per Lely said the DLWC believes the IREC plays a vital role in the search for higher productivity in a sustained manner through research and extension.

DWLW hopes to stay in touch and will welcome interaction from time to time if a need is perceived to discuss a specific issue of vital interest to IREC.