Rural Water Use Efficiency Irrigation Futures (RWUE-IF)

Current Overview

The aim of the Rural Water Use Efficiency and South East Queensland Irrigation Futures initiatives was to assist irrigators to reduce water and energy consumption through grower engagement, resulting in a reduction in overall water use and carbon footprint in the key irrigation industries. The Queensland cut flower and foliage sector is one such industry, with water a vital component of its production operations. Growers were targeted through workshops and on-farm irrigation and pump assessments, and the result was a significant improvement in water use and energy use efficiency and an improvement in grower engagement and awareness in relation to irrigation management.

The floriculture production businesses in Queensland rely on irrigation to maintain their operations, in the form of field grown, hydroponic or container production. Therefore, with irrigation as such a significant element of the industry, it is essential that enterprises embrace modern irrigation technologies and adopt efficient practices that will ensure the industry’s sustainability into the future.

The next part of the process is now to implement changes on farms in key areas that represent significant percentages of irrigated production. Irrigators in the Sunshine Coast region have been identified as using considerably higher energy per volume of water per metre of head (kWh/ML/m) in their irrigation activities. The industry has been encouraged to work towards the benchmark figure of approximately 5kWh/ML/m. Table 1 shows a summary of the growers in this region, having been identified as our priority group as they represent the highest potential for water and energy savings in the industry. Growers which have already been identified as high priority in terms of their potential for increased irrigation efficiency now require targeted, practical and intensive assistance and encouragement to turn that potential into significant water savings for the industry. These irrigators with considerably higher kWh/ML/m produce traditional flowers in potted media utilising a hydroponic irrigation system. Traditional flower crops in this style of production represent the majority of the industry, are harvested year round and have a high water requirement. In addition to having the highest potential for savings, each growing operation that is currently underperforming will make an ideal case study that may be used in industry-wide extension materials as a demonstration farm. On-the-ground changes in the case study farms will be documented and reported, the results of which will be used to encourage other growers to implement the recommendations that were made in assessments completed through previous projects. This will lead to a high level of return on investment from the previous projects and the successful implementation of past research and extension results into active, measureable changes.

Project Activities

In the previous projects, research and extension activities provided extensive knowledge of the operations, production systems and irrigation systems of flower and foliage producers in Queensland. In the current project, this knowledge will be used to implement on-the-ground changes to a number of case study farms located in the Sunshine Coast region. These growers have been identified as operating significantly above industry benchmarks in kWh/ML/m. By targeting crop production systems with high water and energy requirements that are not currently meeting industry benchmarks, the project will have maximum impact on water and energy savings in the region. In addition to the wide scope for improvement on these farms, positive outcomes on case study farms will be used to facilitate water and energy savings across the industry through extension materials and demonstration activities. By collaborating with irrigators, retail suppliers, consultants, advisors, NRM and regional land management groups, the project aims to implement changes identified in previous projects to achieve real and measurable savings.

Media & Communications

Technical Reports

The case study farms will be closely monitored and a range of extension materials produced on the progress at each farm. As changes are implemented, improvements to water and energy efficiency will be documented, along with changes to management practices and the productivity of the farm. In collaboration with industry suppliers, the changes that are implemented on case study farms will also undergo a cost analysis, giving growers the return on investment for each system improvement.

The case study farm profiles will be regularly updated through industry publications, newsletters, social media and on industry websites. The process will also be captured in short video presentations that highlight simple and practical solutions and deliver technical information to growers on improving their water and energy efficiency. These videos will be available online and shown on field days held at the case study farms. By holding open days on these demonstration farms, growers will have the opportunity to see the improvements first hand. This will also facilitate collaboration between retail suppliers and irrigation system design consultants, who can help other growers to take the next step in implementing changes that have been recommended in previous projects.

Project Duration

Start date (11/2013)
Mid-term review date (11/2015)
Recommencement date (2015 – 2017)

Related Information

Project Officer:  Shane Holborn shane@flowersqueensland.asn.au