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History of Irrigation in the Nangiloc District

The area did not come to rely on irrigation until the 1920's when river frontages were opened up for lease and used primarily for vegetable growing. Demand for fresh vegetables after the Second World War led to an expansion of the vegetable growing enterprises. Irrigation methods improved and more efficient pumps and spray irrigation led to growth in this industry. It has grown steadily ever since, recent large developments further enhancing the prosperity of the district.

Information from SRWA Webpage (

In the early 1880's, a Royal Commission, chaired by Alfred Deakin (later to become Prime Minister of Australia), made the decision to examine the potential for irrigation in Australia.Deakin traveled to the United States of America and met with George and Ben Chaffey, who had earlier established irrigation in Canada.The Chaffeys agreed to come to Australia and established the first irrigation region near Mildura in 1887.

The "Colony" was successful as far as irrigation and fruit were concerned - but a financial disaster.After a second Royal Commission in 1895, the region was placed under the control of The First Mildura Irrigation Trust. Other potential sites for irrigation were investigated by the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission and in 1909 they opened up the area now know as Merbein, with 150 blocks, designed to encourage dairy farming ... but the new owners of the land soon turned to dried fruit. The area expanded dramatically between 1917 and 1921 to accommodate soldiers returning from the 1st World War.

In 1920, a second new area was established around Red Cliffs with some 700 new "blocks" being developed.The Robinvale Irrigation District came on stream as a full irrigation district in 1947 - this time to provide jobs and homes for soldiers returning from the 2nd World War.

Until 1957, the irrigated area remained less than 500 hectares. Then, the arrival of electricity allowed for electric pumps, improved irrigation methods and expansion away from the river. However, waterlogging and drainage problems increased. Tile drainage was installed, drainage water being returned to the river.

1969 - Concerns by the Rural Water Commission halted the increase of the above drainage practice. Properties with existing systems could continue to put their drainage water back into the river, but new schemes had to arrange their own drainage sites. The method most commonly used was to put the water into a drainage basin. Re-use on the farm and bores to the regional groundwater table were also methods used. The shortage of drainage sites, the general high cost of shifting drainage water and lack of planning and knowledge were all problems facing the irrigator in the Nangiloc/Colignan district.

The district grew rapidly because of the sunshine, the soil types and the drainage systems which combined to provide greater returns to growers than in other parts of Sunraysia.

Over the years, the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission changed its name and its structure. In 1994, the Sunraysia Rural Water Authority was formed as an independent corporate entity to manage all irrigation in the area, with all of its shares owned by the Government of Victoria.

(with thanks to Frank Tucker for collating this information)