ABOUT BAROSSA INFRASTRUCTURE LTD
“To provide a high quality water supply in the Barossa which, when applied in environmentally and viticulturally appropriate quantities, sustains crop yield and quality through dry periods at a cost that is lower than other quality water sources.”
Barossa Infrastructure Ltd (BIL) is an unlisted public Company with initial capacity to supply 10,000 Megalitres per annum of non-potable supplementary irrigation water for viticulture in the Barossa. In response to demand the Scheme will expand to 11,000 Megalitres with ongoing negotiations for further expansions.
The Company was incorporated in 1998 with the purpose of meeting the demand to replace increasingly saline ground water with high quality water suitable for viticulture over a range of soils. A further purpose was to relieve pressure on the domestic water supply, which was unable to cope with the very high demand experienced during summer hot spells. BIL irrigation water is a supplement to natural rainfall, designed to drought proof vineyards in years of low rainfall.
BIL customers are the shareholders, in proportion to their contracted volume of water. The Scheme cost in the year 2000 was approximately $30 million, funded 1/3 by share purchase and 2/3 by a long-term bank loan. The loan was paid off in 2016 and the Company is now debt free apart from a small seasonal overdraft.
On 26 July 2016 customers celebrated the final payment of the bank loan taken out to construct the Scheme. Tribute was paid to the many farsighted members of the Barossa community who supported the Scheme from its inception.
In addition to usage charges customers pay an annual infrastructure levy over a number of years. While no Government funding was received during the construction of the Scheme, considerable assistance was provided during negotiation of the necessary permits.
One of the most difficult early decisions was to find a suitable, drought resistant, source of high quality irrigation water. The use of the Warren Reservoir, supplemented with River Murray water via the SA Water Mannum-Adelaide pipeline, was the final decision.
The Company is grateful for the support of the South Australian Government and SA Water for the way in which a decommissioned reservoir and surplus capacity in the Mannum-Adelaide pipeline have been utilised. The Company contributes to the upgrading of the Warren transfer main to ensure there is sufficient capacity.
BIL is required to hold River Murray water rights for all water supplied to Barossa Infrastructure Ltd. This water comes from Water Access Entitlements, either purchased or in the form of long term leases, and annual Water Allocations purchased on the market.
It is the objective of the Company to achieve the ownership of two thirds of demand in the form of High Security Water Access Entitlements (or equivalent). Currently BIL holds less than a quarter of projected demand.
The Company has been active in seeking alternative water sources in the interests of sustainability of viticulture in the Barossa. During 2010, in cooperation with The Barossa Council, a Scheme to use treated effluent from the Nuriootpa Community Wastewater Management Scheme (CWMS) was commissioned. This represents approximately 4% of demand.
Typical Customer Connection
BIL Offtake at Fromm Square
Inside Airfield Pumping Station
CARING FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
As is the case with all irrigators, the Company and its customers are dependent on a strong environmental commitment, to ensure business sustainability. Water supplied is supplementary to the average Barossa rainfall of 500 mm per annum. Severe summers over the past few years, with little winter and spring rain, combined with high spring and summer temperatures, have meant some customers using up to 2 Megalitres per hectare per annum.
For approximately 30 years, prior to the commissioning of the BIL Scheme, supplementary irrigation water had been supplied from underground sources and via run-off from surface catchments during the drier summer months to ensure consistent quality grapes were produced. Existing water supplies were becoming inadequate to sustain market position in the wine industry and avoid overuse of SA Water’s domestic supplies in the Barossa.
The supply of the additional supplementary irrigation is required to:
- ensure adequate water for the health of the vines and production of premium wines
- replace inferior quality (saline) water, either groundwater or surface water
- supply additional water due to annual variation in rainfall
- ensure Barossa catchment water harvesting is at sustainable levels
- correct the negative correlation between yield and quality with increasing salinity of ground water
- avoid mining of deep aquifer water for irrigation leading to the importation of salt to surface soils
It is necessary that all of the above be achieved without affecting the long-term sustainability of viticulture and this has been achieved with the use of either natural catchment water from the Warren or River Murray water from Mannum.
An analysis of the local catchment indicated more salt was being exported in the river flows than would be applied to the vines. Further, the River Murray salinity mitigation over the past few years meant it was very unlikely salinity at Morgan would exceed 800 EC for any significant period – the water quality was assured.
To support the sustainability of the Company an environmental study was completed in 2001 and a review carried out in 2015.
Environmental issues addressed included:
- the potential for the use of BIL water to result in a rise in regional water tables
- the effects on the salt budget and the potential for increases in the salt load entering surface drainage as base flow
- the potential for the creation of perched water tables with adverse effects on plant growth, and for migration off-site
- the effects of any changes in salinity and chlorine residuals on ecosystems and the implications of inter-basin transfer of water
Resolution of all environmental issues was required before approvals were granted and the Scheme constructed. An independent audit of the safety and environmental effects of the use of waste-water from The Barossa Council’s CWMS was undertaken by the Company prior to supply of the water and ongoing annual reports on its impact are required.
Barossa Infrastructure Ltd commissions a report on the shallow ground water table every two to three years to ensure there are no detrimental impacts due to the use of imported River Murray water. To date there has been no detrimental impact on the environment. Over the past three years salinity in the water supplied to customers is between 200 and 300 parts per million.
The supply of water is also a good indication of the changing climate. Average use is increasing and the peak use days are, on average, becoming earlier.
One issue that was not anticipated was the prolonged drought in the catchment of the Murray Darling Basin. The introduction of water trading under the Basin Plan and Environmental Watering Plan meant supply was available throughout the drought, but at a considerable additional cost. It is anticipated this will continue in the future.
The Scheme was originally commissioned in December 2001 with a capacity of 7,000 Megalitres per annum. Subsequently, additional capacity has been added with the Community Wastewater Management Scheme from Nuriootpa and 2 tranches from SA Water to give a capacity of 9,000 Megalitres per annum from the 2015/16 water year.
As already mentioned, the next step is now underway to expand the Scheme to 11,000 ML. An Offer Information Statement was prepared to invite participation and the response has ensured the expansion will proceed.
The challenge is to ensure that all customers benefit from the expansion and the identified needs are met.
Cost of the further expansion includes:
- payment to SA Water to upgrade the supply from the Mannum-Adelaide Pipeline at Birdwood to the Warren Reservoir
- significant upgrade of BIL Infrastructure and potential dam storage
- fixed charges to SA Water
Benefits of a further expansion include:
- further utilisation of the BIL pipe network
- additional and more secure wine grape production
- for each 1,000 Megalitres capacity, an increase in grape production of up to 5,000 tonnes per annum (with a potential wholesale value of between $15 and $25 million dollars)
- significant employment opportunities
Although the Scheme was originally funded through the issue of shares and a bank loan, following the implementation of the Murray Darling Basin Plan the Company has received two grants as part of the recent Government-initiated water saving plans.
Funding under the:
- Private Irrigation Infrastructure Program for South Australia allowed the Company to replace inaccurate mechanical customer meters with more accurate electronic meters
- South Australian River Murray Sustainability Irrigation Industry Improvement Program enabled completion of automation allowing growers to access their flow rate and consumption
PRV 12 One of many in the system
BOOSTER PUMPS MOPPA PUMPING STATION
Thirty million dollars in 2001 purchased a considerable network of pipes, valves and pumping stations, including:
- 190 kilometres of buried pipeline ranging in size from the trunk main of up to 960 millimetres in diameter down to distribution mains of 150 millimetres in diameter
- a distribution area covering 450 square kilometres
- four booster pumping stations, the largest with a total pumping capacity of 630 kilowatts
- 32 pressure reducing valves on the lateral mains to protect both the mains and customers’ equipment from high pressure
In the 2016/2017 water year there were approximately 300 customer / shareholders with 430 separate connections, each provided with a meter and flow control valve to ensure accuracy and maximise efficient water usage.
Replacement of mechanical flowmeters with accurate electronic flowmeters has enabled a web based system that downloads meter readings daily and provides access to this data by the Company and its customers. A similar system monitors pressure at pressure reducing valves and other critical locations. Pumping station upgrades allow live viewing of the system and control of critical elements.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Barossa Infrastructure Ltd is constantly seeking ways in which the effects of climate change and reduced water availability from the River Murray may be managed. It has become obvious over the past few summers that the impact of climate change is drier springs and hotter summers, resulting in an increased demand for water over short but critical periods.
Projects completed include:
- electronic metering and associated web based information collection
- access to live data from the pumping stations
- monitoring of flows and pressures using internet connection to flowmeters, resulting in
- increased operational safety via monitoring of faults
- automation of meter reading
- increased Scheme capacity through monitoring of bottlenecks
- provision of the monitoring data to customers to allow integration with that from other sources such as weather stations and soil moisture gauges
- installation of above ground cabinets for control of pressure reducing valve chambers to avoid confined space entry when they are serviced every 2 weeks in summer; this also provided the opportunity to install pressure monitoring equipment to protect the mains and provide a better service to customers
MAJOR INCREASE IN CAPACITY AND UPGRADE OF INFRASTRUCTURE
As previously mentioned, an Offer Information Statement has been issued to expand the Scheme by 2,000 ML per year and the response has ensured the expansion will proceed.
- Supply will be mainly to existing customers (70-80%) enabling them to become more sustainable and drought ready and, in some cases, to replace SA Water mains water
- A 500 ML dam will be constructed, 2 new pumping stations built and 7 Km of mains laid
- Some new plantings will be required to meet increasing demand for Barossa wine
- Customer take-up will be over 3 years
- The construction loan will be financed by infrastructure levies and the issue of new shares
Projects for future consideration include:
- potential for storm water to be added to the Nuriootpa CWMS flows pending modification to the Water Allocation Plan (WAP)
- aquifer storage and reuse options to explore the potential for assisting customers in managing drought response; this may also assist the Company in the sale of Off-Peak water through underground storage for two to three years as permitted by the WAP
- other opportunities such as
- The Barossa Council and Light Regional Council – Community Wastewater Management Schemes
- North Para Environmental Control – incorporation of winery waste into the system
- Bunyip Water – utilisation of surplus stormwater and Bolivar treated wastewater to supplement customers’ supply in years of high demand.