DAFWA has played a vital role in the Ord River Irrigation Expansion Stage 2, now known as the Goomig Farmlands, in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. Starting in 2010, extensive soil, groundwater and surface water investigations have been undertaken to determine which areas may be suitable to release for agricultural development.
These investigation and subsequent assessment results have guided management decisions which underpin the area's longer term commercial and environmental development for irrigated agriculture.
DAFWA continues to support the proposed expansion of agriculture by investigating several other new areas in the East and West Kimberley regions.
Assessing suitability for irrigated agriculture
In 2010, DAFWA began water and soil risk assessments and modelling of more than 8000 hectares of the Ord River Irrigation Expansion Area, Stage 2.
The work, funded through the Western Australian Govenment's LandCorp organisation, was a response to the expansion project needing to comply with the Environmental Protection Authority and the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
DAFWA undertook the scientific soil and water investigations necessary to determine which areas were suitable for irrigated agriculture and how they could be developed without impacting on soil, water and environmental resources.
Of the 8000ha, 7400ha were assessed as suitable for agricultural development. As a result of DAFWA's work, environmental approvals were granted to develop the 7400ha Goomig Farmlands.
DAFWA's recommendations included features which incorporated improved management systems to reduce potential land degradation risks as well as more efficient farmland designs. This work also resulted in about $30 million of savings in capital works and similar savings in long-term groundwater management and monitoring.
The assessment recommended removing 760ha of land at high risk of degradation from the total considered for release and recommended delaying the release of 400ha of land assessed to be at moderate risk.
A further 1600ha, which was defined at some risk in the long term, was recommended for lease only because of potential land degradation impacts and possible costs incurred in the future.