A LOW-FLOW water project in the Mount Lofty Ranges has developed a two-fold advantage – helping rejuvenate the environment as well as furthering the agricultural industry.
Investing $13.48 million into 500 low-flow water devices at strategically-located dams and water courses, the Flows for the Future program aims to re-establish natural water flow patterns.
The Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources program aims to improve the health and resilience in high priority catchments, starting with the Angas River, without impacting water trading rules and arrangements.
With about 20,000 dams in the Mount Lofty Ranges, project manager Paul Wainwright said FFTF was working with producers so they could continue farming while also maintaining and improving the environment.
“We're not trying to suggest we should have fewer dams, we recognise they are important, but we need to ensure the environment receives flows at the right time as well,” he said.
At most properties, a drain and pipe for low-flow run-off to bypass dams would be installed under the FFTF program, but more complex set-ups involve a release valve on the dam itself.
The release valve set-up was installed on Peter Gale's Back Valley dam 18 months ago. It formed the third stage of an environmental project at his 141-hectare property, providing low-flow water to a wetland downstream from his dam, alongside planting 500 trees annually.
Not only has Mr Gale increased the water flow to the wetland but he has improved shelter belts for his 100 Murray Grey cattle.
“In combination with the planting program and the wetland, we've been able to create an environment that is conducive to the shelter of the cattle as well as a better environment for native vegetation and animals,” he said.
“I'd encourage other people to get involved because I think there is a lot of benefits for having a healthy environment and also for commercial agriculture.”
He believed the low-flow catchment would have minimal impact on his water holding capability and ability to irrigate 4ha for summer grazing.
At the program opening in the Adelaide Hills earlier this month, SA Murray-Darling Basin NRM board chair Sharon Starick said farmers and landholders were more aware about the importance of the environment.
“If we're not looking after our water, soils, bush and wildlife which helps to give good water quality, we're not going to be farming in the long-term,” she said.