Life Blood of the Lachlan
Written by Ted Morgan, Jemalong Irrigation
The first part of the Lachlan story takes us up to the 1920’s covering the indigenous beginning and the early settlement of the Europeans. The story continues here with a history about the development of the Lachlan from 1928 to the present day. It has progressed from a region that could not reliably support river towns, farms or decentralisation, thereby creating a barrier to progress in this western area. It is now a vibrant, productive and diverse valley reliably supporting towns, agriculture and industry.
A Drought Affected No Flow Lachlan River
Severe droughts are a recurring feature of inland NSW that resulted in an unreliable water supply for towns and farmers
Historical records show the following
-111 days in 1908 at Cowra
Longest period at Forbes of 224 days between Dec 1898 and July 1899
228 days at Booligal from Dec 1919 to July 1920
Major droughts occurred in 1902,1917,1924,1937/38,1940-45,1968,1982/83,1994. Could add the Millenium drought of 2002-10 and 2017/18 to this 1997 report by the Dept Land & Water Conservation
- Secure water supplies from the Lachlan were essential for the region to grow and sustain towns, farms and their livestock
Source: Dept Land and Water Conservation “Lachlan Catchment State of the Rivers Report – 1997”
The Lachlan River rises near Yass and flows over 600km and terminates at the Great Cumbung Swamp with an average annual flow of 1,160,000 megalitres (ml) and annual flows from 520% to 4% of the average (Sydney Harbour holds 500,000ml)
Current capacity in 2 construction phases
Started 1928 and finished 1935
Capacity 370,000 megalitres
Capacity 1,217,000 megalitres
Source: Water NSW
Image Courtesy of of the WATER NSW
Who gets the water?
The Pie chart below shows that on average 80% of the available water goes to the river environment including sustaining river flows for towns and farms, environmental allowances and environmental allocations.
The remaining 20% (HS 74,104ml; GS 592,801ml) goes to Consumptive Users as defined below.
High Security (HS) water is 97% reliable in the following categories:
Town Water Supplies: Cowra, Forbes, Condobolin and Lake Cargelligo now have reliable access to Lachlan river water supplies – highest priority and has not failed
Stock and Domestic: for farm house and livestock along the river
High Security generally for orchards, vineyards and vegetables
General Security (GS) water is 42% reliable and used mostly for broadacre irrigation eg wheat, canola, lucerne, cotton and maize. The NSW and Commonwealth Governments hold the largest Lachlan GS water entitlement of 123,492ml plus HS of 2728ml – 19% of available water entitlement
What is produced?
Latest figures 2015/16
Vegetables, cotton and fruit are the 3 top earners every year
Fruit and nuts $34,714,066
Sheep & livestock $11,697,919
Meat cattle $10,064,286
Total $222,326,969 (including a number of smaller contributors)
Source: ABS Gross Value of Irrigated Agriculture
Jemalong and Wyldes Plains Irrigation District (JWPID)established by the NSW Government in 1941. Jemalong Weir construction commenced in 1936. Purpose is to divert water by gravity fed irrigation for stock production and domestic use.
In 1941 the channel system connected 81 farms and in 1951 further subdivisions were created via the Soldier Settlement Scheme. Additional financial assistance was given for fencing, land clearing, erection of buildings and items necessary for the occupation and development of the land. (Source: Wikipedia Soldier Settlement Australia)
JWPID was privatised by the NSW Government in 1995 and Jemalong Irrigation Ltd (JIL) was established.
JIL is the largest single water entity on the Lachlan:
40,000ml average use
Employs 5 staff
325 km of channels
Managed by a Board of 7 Directors
Regulated by the Water Management Act
Regulated by the Environmental Protection Act
Crops grown include:
Wheat, canola and winter fodder crops
Cotton, maize and rice
Lucerne, millet and summer fodder crops
Diversified plantings including jojobas and trees
JEMALONG WEIR CONSTRUCTION, CA 1936
Photos courtesy of JEMALONG IRRIGATION LIMITED
IRRIGATING CROPS - MANNA STATION
Photo courtesy of CHARLIE FRENCH
GRAZING DOWN THE LACHLAN IS A FULL WEEKEND OF CELEBRATING OUR HERITAGE
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