$25M is available for Irrigation Infrastructure Operators to decommission under utilised or inefficient off-farm water delivery infrastructure
The Australian Government is calling for Expressions of Interest under Round One of the Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basin program from Irrigation Infrastructure Operators, in partnership with their customers.
Australia is facing major challenges due to climate change, more variable water availability and unsustainable levels of water extraction for consumptive uses. To address these challenges, the Australian Government has invested in Water for the Future, a long-term initiative to prepare Australia for a future with less water. Water for the Future programs are designed to help secure a long term sustainable future for irrigation regions and return water to the environment. Water for the Future is built on four priorities:
- taking action on climate change
- using water wisely
- securing water supplies
- supporting healthy rivers.
Under the Water for the Future initiative, the Sustainable Rural Water Use and Infrastructure Program invests in rural irrigation water projects to improve the efficiency and productivity of water use and management in the Murray Darling Basin. In addition, the Restoring the Balance in the Murray-Darling Basin Program directs funding towards purchasing water access entitlements to improve the health of the Basin’s rivers, wetlands and floodplains. These two programs will provide funding for the Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basin program.
The Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basin program is one element of the measures announced by the Australian Government that contributes to meeting the objectives of the Water for the Future initiative.
The Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basinprogram aims to recover water for the environment, while at the same time improving irrigation network efficiency and supporting irrigation communities in transitioning to new water sharing arrangements under the Murray-Darling Basin Plan. This will be achieved through the decommissioning and reconfiguration of shared irrigation delivery infrastructure and water access entitlement purchases.
The Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basin program will enable Irrigation Infrastructure Operators, in partnership with their customers, to seek financial support for projects which integrate water access entitlement purchases with the decommissioning and reconfiguration of shared irrigation delivery infrastructure. This ‘bottom up’ approach provides Irrigation Infrastructure Operators the opportunity to develop and submit project proposals which are customised to the characteristics of their irrigation business and the circumstances of the participating customers.
$25 million has been allocated for Round One of the Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basin program. There is no minimum amount of funding which can be applied for, with the maximum being $25 million.
All applications under the Strategic Sub-System Reconfiguration in the Murray-Darling Basin program must be lodged by an Irrigation Infrastructure Operator in partnership with their irrigation customers.
Applications will only be accepted from Irrigation Infrastructure Operators that are located in Eligible Catchments within the Murray-Darling Basin. Eligible Catchments are defined as those catchments where surface water still needs to be recovered for the environment to bridge the gap to the SDLs in the Basin Plan.
If sufficient surface water has already been recovered (or is anticipated to be recovered) in a catchment within the Murray-Darling Basin to bridge the gap through this or other water recovery programs, then applications for projects in the catchment will not be eligible for funding through this program at the time of individual application rounds.
To be eligible to receive funding, a project must include the following mandatory elements:
- the decommissioning of unde rutilised or inefficient offf arm water delivery infrastructure
- an unconditional offer from customers drawing water from the sections of the irrigation delivery network proposed for decommissioning to sell some or all of their water access entitlements through the Irrigation Infrastructure Operator to the Commonwealth
- demonstrated support from all customers that are connected to the section of the irrigation delivery network proposed for reconfiguration.
There are optional eligible activities which may be included in an application under the program. These include, but are not limited to:
- an offer to sell conveyance water savings to the Australian Government
- disconnection completion undertakings (for which a disconnection completion grant may be payable), paid on entitlements owned at the date the program guidelines are publicly released, in recognition that customers will be permanently disconnected from the network
- reconfiguration of off-farm water delivery infrastructure (e.g. re-alignment of supply) to continue irrigation water delivery services to some of the customers within the subsystem, including where required to provide continued access to stock and domestic water
- on-farm works that are directly related to the decommissioning of shared water delivery infrastructure (expected to be limited to farm off-take points) and stock and domestic supply— other on-farm redevelopment costs could be met from the proceeds of any disconnection completion grant and sale of water access entitlements
- removal of permanent plantings where the recipient is no longer going to participate in irrigated agriculture re-vegetation of areas where off-farm water delivery infrastructure has been decommissioned for erosion stabilisation, if necessary
- project management costs.
Incentives offered by the Irrigation Infrastructure Operator to encourage customer participation, such as rebates on termination fees or sharing of conveyance savings may be included in a proposal submitted to the program. The application must disclose if the incentives offered by the Irrigation Infrastructure Operator are in addition to funds sought from the Commonwealth.
Applications close at 5.00pm AEDT Tuesday 2 April 2012.
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