Project update: Small Farm Dams

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1

Pittong small farm damSmall farm dams: assessing the suitability of existing dams to prepare for, cope with, and recover rought


Farm dams are critical to farming properties, but they are limited in their capacity to hold water for extended periods and rely on regular rainfall to fill them.


Their vulnerability during drought periods has researchers looking into small farm dams. The Vic Hub’s South-West Node, Southern Farming Systems, is leading a project with researchers from fellow Vic Hub partner Federation University, to help understand small farm dam hydrology and help improve decision-making during drought and a future impacted by climate change.


Last week saw the first installations of instrumentation installed at several south-west Victorian farms to measure rainfall and runoff.


The equipment installed:

  • Next to the dam, a weather station that captures rainfall with various sensors that measure wind direction and speed, solar radiation, and temperature.
  • 20 to 50m upstream in the dam catchment, a soil moisture probe is installed to measure catchment runoff.
  • Lastly, there is a water level sensor in the dam to measure fluctuations in dam height with rainfall and water loss.


These instruments will continue to be installed across Victoria at other small dams near Bendigo, Wangaratta and Gippsland.


Researchers from the Centre for eResearch and Digital Innovation (CeRDI) aim to create a spatial tool with the data to allow the rapid calculation of the likely runoff for different rainfall scenarios into existing small dams to help farmers prepare, cope and recover from drought.


This will then be combined with existing tools and calculators from Agriculture Victoria to enable farmers to assess and plan the adequacy of their current farm dams to capture sufficient water and cope with drought.


To find out more about this project see:



This project is part of the Victorian Drought Resilience Adoption and Innovation Hub, funded by the Federal Government’s Future Drought Fund.