Farmers and water advocates have expressed concern at Murrumbidgee Irrigation’s (MI) decision to cut off irrigation supply from the main canal for up to 11 weeks to enable upgrading of all major regulating structures.
From May 26 to early August there will be no access to irrigation water from the main canal and the supply systems branching from it. The $15 million refurbishment of the canal is funded by the federal government.
MI chief executive officer Brett Jones said “these upgrades (from late May) will increase the main canal flow capacity and flow rates, which will in turn help us to reduce long term costs,” he said.
But NSW Farmers' water spokesperson Helen Dalton has her concerns.
"There probably should have been better planning and contingencies in place to allow for irrigators to have access to supplementary water during this period,” she said.
Ms Dalton did say the upgrade is necessary and will benefit all the community in the long run.
“It’s common practice to drop the canal at some point, but not for this long,” she said.
"I think MI need to be looking further afield ... what we need is a surge dam to allow for this supplementary water to be stored and used Lake Coolah and Lake Mejum, near Narrandera, could be used for this exact purpose."
Paul Rossetto, a 55-year-old almond farmer from Yenda, is worried about what impact the water cessation will have during a drier than expected winter.
“April to June below rainfall is predicted,” he said.
He also agrees the upgrade is necessary, but says it is imperative for irrigation water to be available in early August as promised.