Dairy water efficiency program delivering for farmers

By QDO President Brian Tessmann

Water management and security is crucial for the long term sustainability of dairy farms. With an ever increasing variability in climatic conditions having the right tools, knowledge and infrastructure for irrigation systems has become so much more important.

However the cost of doing these changes are difficult for farms to implement because of issues associated with available capital and cash flow from increasing costs such as electricity. The Dairy and Fodder Water for Profit (DFWP) program has been able to open up the discussion with farmers about environmental, sustainable and productive outcomes that come about from adopting improved irrigation practices. 

This is why the State Government funded DFWP and Rural Water Use Efficiency Initiative (RWUEI) has been able to achieve a greater than five per cent water-use efficiency saving. For every $1 of government funding, the program has generated a return of $2.85 ever since the program’s inception in 1999. Furthermore, the DFWP program has seen an accumulated water savings of 85,964 ml over this period, with a substantial amount of savings coming through system upgrades. The recently completed round of the program (2013-2017) measured a 47 per cent reduction in energy use due to implemented on-farm efficiency measures.

The program has been such a success that the DFWP’s RWUEI 2017/18 project attracted a substantial amount of interest from both the fodder and dairy industries, which resulted in an oversubscription of applications for assistance for system assessment and financial assistance to implement change.

Improving water use efficiency is a high priority for the industry and government given the social, environmental and economic benefits it can have. Governments must accept and acknowledge the role irrigated agriculture, including dairy, plays in supplying food and the income it generates, particularly in regional communities post 2017/18.

There is considerable concern over funding uncertainty for RWUEI post-2017/18 and farmers continue to be subject to increasing water-use challenges from climate change. For an efficient and viable dairy industry in Queensland to operate and grow, it needs to be supported through a continuation of policy and projects like RWUEI long into the future.