The Australian Government today announced almost $85 million in funding for works to deliver water infrastructure upgrades across the Murrumbidgee Irrigation network, increasing efficiency and delivering productivity benefits for irrigators.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, said the project—funded under the $893 million Private Irrigation Infrastructure Operators Programme (PIIOP)—underlined the government’s commitment to building better water infrastructure that would support a productive and healthy Murray–Darling Basin.

“Irrigation contributed to 28 per cent of Australia’s agricultural production in 2012–13, adding $13.4 billion in gross value to our national bottom line. Of this, $7.1 billion—more than half—was from the Murray–Darling Basin,” Minister Joyce said.

Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Senator Anne Ruston joined Member for Farrer Sussan Ley to make the announcement in Griffith today.

“Effective water infrastructure is vital for our nation’s continued growth and prosperity. This is why we are making available more than $8 billion for water infrastructure upgrades across the Murray–Darling Basin to support agricultural productivity and profitability, and deliver economic, social and environmental benefits,” Senator Ruston said.

Member for Farrer, Sussan Ley, said the project will see farmers across the network benefit from increased crop production thanks to more efficient and controllable water delivery.

“By reducing seepage and leakage in the network, this project will also generate almost 10 gigalitres in water savings that will be used to deliver environmental benefits for a healthy Basin system. These savings will come solely from conveyance entitlements no longer required to cover network losses, without impacting the water entitlements of irrigators using the network,” Minister Ley said.

“Projects like this not only strengthen water security, but also benefit the local community and help stimulate the regional economy through the use of local resources and suppliers.”

New South Wales Minister for Lands and Water and Minister for Primary Industries Niall Blair said that the PIIOP program had been very successful across the state.

“Across New South Wales, the first two rounds of the $893 million PIIOP Programme have funded 455 kilometres of new or refurbished water delivery channels; 1011 kilometres of stock and domestic pipeline for water supply for 225 farmers; 4,468 new meters and control points; and water delivery infrastructure on 324 farms,” Minister Blair said.

Minister Joyce said that the Coalition was delivering the environmental outcomes of the Basin Plan, while focusing in the social and economic wellbeing of Basin communities.

“The operation of the Sustainable Diversion Limit Adjustment Mechanism is a top priority for the Coalition. Achieving the required environmental outcomes without taking more water out of production just makes sense.

“I am determined to see a maximum offset under the adjustment. I am also pleased that we are now looking at how non-flow complementary measures can be considered within the Plan.”

Minister Joyce said that the PIIOP program is part of a nationwide water infrastructure agenda.

“In addition to our investments in the Murray–Darling Basin, the Coalition is delivering a $2 billion National Water Infrastructure Loans Facility and a $500 million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

“Our extensive investment in water infrastructure comes at a crucial time—the right infrastructure in the right place will be vital for our agriculture sector to seize the opportunities of a transitioning economy and growing global demand for agrifood products.

“As the economy transitions and diversifies, agricultural exports are playing a more important role than ever in our nation’s prosperity. Rural exports have already overtaken coal to become our second-largest export after iron ore.

“To ensure we can make the most of this time of unprecedented opportunity, this government is undertaking the most significant investment in infrastructure in Australian history, including through the roll-out of our $15 billion water reform agenda.

“From water infrastructure, to transport infrastructure and digital infrastructure, this government is building the foundations that support a productive and profitable agriculture sector, and a strong national economy.”