Coleambally Irrigation Area
An opportunity for irrigated farming
Coleambally Irrigation Co-operative Limited (CICL) is Australia’s fourth largest irrigation company, based in the fertile New South Wales Riverina region supplying irrigation and drainage services to nearly 500 farms via a world class, open, gravity-fed channel network.
The CICL area of operations spans across over 400,000 ha including over 300,000 ha which is serviced by the West Coleambally Outfall Channel. Servicing farms typically 220 ha in size and using advances in innovative technologies and software we use a Total Channel Control (TCC) system which is solar powered and fully automated, allowing farmers' water orders to be precisely filled within two hours.
Our water supply is from the regulated Murrumbidgee River and our access to water is based on the Murrumbidgee Regulated River Water Sharing Plan (2016). CICL also holds a groundwater water access licence for the Lower Murrumbidgee Groundwater which is used to augment CICL’s conveyance licence water. As an industry leader, and as part of the highly regulated irrigation sector, CICL complies with both federal and state regulations.
CICL delivers between 200,000 and 300,000 ML a year on farm. Irrigated agriculture drives a demand for services and is the basis of the communities social and economic fabric.
CICL’s office is in the centre of the Coleambally Township. Situated south of the Murrumbidgee River 645km southwest of Sydney, the town is nestled amongst a cypress pine forest and is the youngest town in NSW, officially opening in 1968 to serve as the administrative, commercial and social centre for the Coleambally Irrigation Area.
Key features of our water supply service
Water delivery is managed via a Total Channel Control (TCC) system which is solar powered and full automated, allowing water orders to be precisely filled within two hours.
CICL’s minimum standard of service is:
- Gravity supply
- Two hours notice for water orders to start and stop.
- Internet or phone based water ordering available 24/7.
- Minimum daily flow rate of 14 ML/day per 1,400 DE. As a general rule, excluding the impacts of trade, most farms have access to a minimum daily flow rate of 14 ML/day.
- Irrigation season from mid-August to mid-May with a small number of channels having access to winter supply in designated high security zones.
- Access to CICL owned and operated drainage channels.
This standard of service, its flexibility and minimum flow rate, sets CICL apart from other gravity networks in our region.
We operate under a dual governance structure. CICL, which is responsible for the supply of irrigation services to its members and customers, and Coleambally Irrigation Mutual Co-operative Limited (CIMCL). CIMCL is responsible for ensuring there are sufficient funds available for the future replacement of the major assets within/under/over the supply and drainage systems.
To ensure autonomy, accountability and security of funds for asset replacement, both co-operatives have their own separate Rules and Boards.
Water Access Licences
CICL holds water access licences with the NSW Government for access to surface water and groundwater and is a significant holder of surface water in the Murrumbidgee Valley.
CICL's water entitlements match its general security and high security water access licence volume and it's history of use entitlements match its supplementary water licence volume.
CICL’s Class A water entitlements are high security and Class B water entitlements are general security. The domestic and stock entitlements are Class G.
CICL’s conveyance licence has not been issued as a contractual right to members and it is on CICL’s balance sheet as an intangible asset.
CICL, with water savings derived from infrastructure investment in the TCC, channel lining and storage, provides members with access to a member benefit and additional water offers. Member benefits and additional water offers are distributed in proportion to the delivery entitlements held by members.
CICL uses fixed charges for its services and a schedule is available on our website.
CICL charges include an outlet and annual peak flow fee as well a fixed charge equivalent where annual water use is greater than 110 percent of delivery entitlements.
Delivery entitlements are the primary basis of CICL's, and 100 percent of CIMCL’s revenue. In addition to CICL and CIMCL charges, we invoice irrigators for the relevant government water entitlement and usage charges, which are also listed on our schedule. These are considered a “pass through” of the government charges to CICL.
Becoming a member or customer
To be eligible to be a CICL member or customer, you need to own or lease a farm within the CICL Area of Operations, be connected to CICL’s channel network, and the farm needs to have an outlet which water can be delivered through. To be a member you will also need to own 10 delivery entitlements, 10 shares and the use or trade of a minimum of 10 ML each year.
Water and delivery entitlements and shares are tradeable therefore farms in the CICL service area can hold different volumes of water, delivery entitlements and shares.
Water quality and salinity
Our water supply to farms has low salinity, with our extractions from the river generally less than 200 EC. Management actions to minimise the risk of high water tables on productive areas are important to CICL and the regional sustainability of our community and customers.
Since the late 1980s, CICL and its members have invested in changed irrigation management to address high water tables. In 2014 CICL introduced a hydraulic loading policy (Water Use Policy) to assist in the reduction of the risk of high water tables. This Policy includes a hydraulic loading limit of 7.2 ML/ha. This policy also requires that rice is only grown on soil approved for rice growing.
As part of our licence arrangements with Government we measure the pressure in the network of nearly 740 piezometers twice a year. It is positive the negative impacts of water tables to farming land are virtually negligible, having reduced significantly over the last decade. Further information on CICL's Water Use Policy is available on our Policies page.
The figure below shows the results of the September 2017 piezometer readings across the intensively irrigated parts of CICL.
Soil types vary across our region with the majority of farms undertaking EM-31 testing to measure soil density and assist in identifying the soil suited for particular crops. The dominant soil types being self mulching clays, non self mulching clays, red brown earths and transitional red brown earths, as well as a number of sand streams. Self mulching clays are more dominant north of Coleambally.
Our irrigators use sophisticated, modern farming systems. We have some designated areas in which water can be supplied during the winter months where there are perennial plantings. The majority of our water is used for rice, cotton and corn crops. On farm irrigation layouts continue to evolve with the expansion of cotton and row cropping and a number of irrigators have also invested in lateral moves providing labour and water efficiencies.