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Media Release

July 20 2010

Sustainable irrigation an ongoing challenge

Water sustainability is an ongoing challenge.Achieving sustainable irrigation in Australia will be an ongoing challenge with objectives continuing to change as the knowledge of environmental needs and changing climate improves, according to UniSA Associate Professor Henning Bjornlund.

 “Sustainable irrigation is an adaptive process that might never reach its objective but there will be a constant process of working towards it,” Associate Prof Bjornlund says.

“Both the Federal and State Governments acknowledge that Australia has to deal with serious water issues – more water needs to be left in the rivers for the environment to ensure that Australians can continue to enjoy the quality of life they have grown used to.

“The irrigation industry is by far the largest water user, so if more water needs to be left in rivers, most of that water needs to come out of irrigation.

“Sustainable irrigation is therefore critical to the future wellbeing of our State.”

Associate Prof Bjornlund has just published a book which explores different methods that will facilitate and encourage sustainable irrigation– Incentives and Instruments for Sustainable Irrigation.

The book, which Associate Prof Bjornlund edited, includes contributions from some of the most influential researchers in the irrigation and water field from the past 30 years.
“The book looks at sustainable irrigation in a holistic way, considering the multidisciplinary objectives of sustainable agriculture, water management, water infrastructure, irrigation communities and the environment; as well as the need to re-allocate water between competing users and the need for water and food security in an environment of scarcity.
“We still need to change our behaviour and perceptions when it comes to water and how we use it. Everyone knows water is a scarce resource but it is still not managed in a sustainable way.
“New technology can make a considerable difference but technology alone cannot create water security.”
The book argues that what’s needed is a robust institutional framework which is capable of adapting to this ever changing process.
“We need a framework that is flexible and provides mechanisms by which all sectors of the community can contribute, and ways in which water resources can be moved to those who need it most urgently under any given set of circumstances – such as more sophisticated market instruments,” he says.
The new book will be launched by Dr Wendy Craik AM, Commissioner of the Productivity Commission (and former chief executive of the Murray-Darling Basin Commission) at UniSA’s City West campus, Kerry Packer Civic Gallery tomorrow (21 July) at 5.30pm.

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