World first Gold certification for agriculture site
Renmark Irrigation Trust becomes the world’s first gold agricultural site and first agricultural collective to be AWS certified.
Some of the best elements of water stewardship were on display in the South Australian town of Renmark earlier this month when government, business and civil society leaders came together on the Murray River to celebrate the first gold level certification of an agricultural site. Renmark Irrigation Trust (RIT) is the first agricultural collective to be certified and paves the way for other groups of irrigators, villages or farm collectives to follow in their wake.
Renmark is a town in South Australia’s rural Riverland area, situated 254 km northeast of Adelaide, on the banks of the River Murray in the Murray-Darling Basin. The Renmark Irrigation Trust was constituted by a Statute of the South Australian Parliament on 23 December 1893, becoming the area’s first local government authority. The main purpose of the Trust was to facilitate putting into operation the water rights to which the ratepayers were entitled under the terms of the Irrigation Works Act.
The Trust is widely recognised as a leader on water issues in Australia and beyond. Speaking at the presentation of the Gold certificate Minister for Primary Industries and Regional Development Tim Whetstone commented how “It’s extremely fitting that it’s RIT that is the first to gain this recognition – they were the first irrigation trust in Australia, the first to be completely piped, and the first irrigation trust to deliver environmental water, they have long demonstrated the innovation and courage required to be world’s best,”
Renmark Irrigation Trust infrastructure serves over 600 irrigators covering more than 4500 hectares throughout the Renmark District. Water is pumped through approximately 140km of pipeline that spreads throughout the Renmark Irrigation District. The main Pumping Station consists of 6 Pumps with a Total Pumping Capacity of 5,150 Litres per second. Water is metered at both the diversion point from the river and at the farm gate. The AWS Water Stewardship certification process verified RIT’s water management practices and performance at Gold-level. Highlights include that RIT:
- is consistently compliant with water licenses and allocations, and voluntarily manages compliance on behalf of its members
- operates at 98% delivery efficiency, compared to Australian irrigation/rural water providers average of 83% (ABS, 2015)
- voluntary participates in the SA Water/ Government salt interception scheme
- voluntarily participates in environmental watering with the Commonwealth Environmental Water Holder (CEWH)
- voluntarily participates in Renmark Paringa Landcare Bookmark Creek Action Group to improve the Bookmark Creek environment.
Both the Chair of the Murray Darling Basin Authority and the Assistant Federal Minister for Agriculture and Water said the Renmark experience showed significant potential for future collaborative water management in the Murray Darling Basin and beyond. Assistant Minister Senator Anne Ruston said it was “a great opportunity for other regions and irrigation network operators to follow the lead of the Renmark Irrigation Trust and empower them to meet the requirements of the AWS International Standard.”
Speakers, including the Chair of the RIT Peter Duggin, reflected on the significant and lasting scars left on the town by Australia’s Millennium Drought and their determination to rebuild a prosperous and thriving community through an ambitious 10-year plan. The RIT set out ‘to be recognised as Australia’s leading water resources manager underpinning the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the Renmark community’. Peter Duggin said AWS certification represented the pinnacle of the Trust’s achievement to date.
Peter Duggin was presented with the AWS certificate, audited by UK conformity assessment body BMTrada, by AWS Asia-Pacific CEO Michael Spencer and the Head of the Department of Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) who had funded the project along with National Australia Bank. Congratulatory messages were received via video from the AWS CEO Adrian Sym in ‘sunny’ Scotland, the Head of the World Bank 2030 Water Resources Group Karin Krchnak, AWS Africa Manager Doreen Chanje and Dr Zhu Donglin and his team working on a tea farm near Nanjing (who invited the RIT team to visit them in China!).