Due to rising water tables, experiments with sub-surface drainage began on some horticultural farms on the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area in the early 1950s.
The record wet winter of 1956 almost completely wiped out the stone fruit industry. The watertable rose, tree roots became waterlogged and trees died by the thousands. The Water Conservation & Irrigation Commission (WC&IC), CSIRO and the Irrigation Research and Extension Committee (IREC) collaborated to form the MIA Tile Drainage Committee, to co-ordinate the installation of tile drainage.
Soil testing was carried out by WC&IC officers on affected farms, and a plan was drawn up. This plan generally included a main pump sump 4.27m deep adjacent to a drainage channel, a main line of 100mm or 150mm diameter pipes and lateral lines, generally 100mm, connected to the main line.
In the earliest years, trenching contractors were engaged to install the drains, some with home-built trenching machines. During the hectic years after 1956, as many as 13 machines, mainly imported Barber Greene designs, were engaged.
Initially, most components including the tiles, concrete rings for sumps and inspection pits were imported, but later local industries were able to supply these.
The Area Brickworks manufactured thousands of 100mm and 150mm non-glazed pipes made at their Willbriggie factory, which were individually hand laid at the bottom of each trench. Bruno Altin & Co supplied the concrete rings.
These installations, though expensive, have been effective over the years in combating rising water tables and increasing salinity.