During the millennium drought, groundwater licence holders in the Shepparton Irrigation Region began surrendering their licences to use groundwater due to difficulty accessing the resource as water levels declined and costs to maintain their licences increases. In this region, groundwater extraction provides not only a valuable resource for irrigators to use, but also benefits land and salinity management. To maintain these regional benefits and the incentives for licence holders, groundwater resource management needed to change.
Historically, groundwater management in the Shepparton Irrigation Region, an area that applies to groundwater to depths of 25m below ground surface, was intensive and included metered extraction. Intensive management is costly to implement and cost recovery comes from licence holders.
In 2015, Goulburn-Murray Water in consultation with groundwater users and stakeholders implemented an adaptive management plan that included the removal of metered groundwater use. Switching to an adaptive style of management that included the removal of metering requirements allowed Goulburn-Murray Water to reduce the costs to licence holders substantially.
Groundwater use by licence holders in the Shepparton Irrigation Region is now estimated from a combination of historic use, climate conditions and metered use in the nearby Katunga Water Supply Protection Area.
The adaptive management approach allows for potential use outside of groundwater licences to be identified by reports of groundwater interference. Since the implementation of this approach, no reports of interference have been received.
Removing the requirement to meter groundwater use in the Shepparton Irrigation Region provides licence holders with more incentive to maintain their licences, and provides a benefit to regional land and salinity management by pumping groundwater during periods of high water tables.
Further assessment is required to determine whether licence holders are maintaining their licences and the social implications of removing metering requirements.