“The Great South Coast Region has abundant water resources for food & fibre production and the Great South Coast Food & Fibre Action Plan will unlock the potential to drive sustainable development and efficient use of these resource to create community wide economic value.”
The Great South Coast region has higher and more reliable rainfall than the Victorian average and has high yielding and good quality groundwater. While groundwater is nominally 100% allocated in the region, it has been an underutilised resource through to 2018, with use well below sustainable diversion limits averaging just 34% YOY. The allocated licences, although capped today (no more to be issued) make up less that 1% of the total underground water resource across the whole region.
Many entitlement holders do not use their allocated water and there are arbitrary restrictions in trading the water to other users. Unlike the northern irrigation areas, there is not a well-developed trading market, indeed, a no trading mentality. The true capacity of the underground water system and its ability to recharge during high rainfall events has not been tested due to low take up and usage.
The Dilwyn aquifer is essentially untapped because of its depth and the cost associated with extracting this water. While this is a massive resource there are questions around the quality of this water and the economic feasibility of tapping into it which need to be answered.
Because the region has reliable natural rainfall, irrigation for production is often supplementary with dairy farms the predominant user. There is an opportunity to unlock the potential of production increase with more intensive use of irrigation for pasture production on existing farms both those with and those without irrigation today. Irrigation has the ability to double the production from the region’s dairy farms as reliably demonstrated by a number of high producing businesses.
There is a real need to review and update water regulations to make them fit for purpose to the Great South Coast Region. Unfortunately, policy and regulation makers just look North to MDBC for policy direction and so the potential to unlock and grow economic value in the Great South Coast, particularly in dairying, is constrained by intransience or “too hard mentality” by regulators and policy makers.