Small farm dams: Assessing the suitability of existing dams to prepare for, cope with, and recover from drought

Vic Drought Hub - Farmland 1
  • Southern Farming Systems (SW Node)
  • Drought Resilience Research

Small farm dams are relied upon to provide stock and domestic water for many farms across Victoria. However, our understanding of their capacity to provide adequate water during drought and climate change is being questioned. 
This project uses spatial imagery and allows a farmer to ‘click’ on an existing dam on a map. The tool being developed will automatically map the catchment above the dam and using 5km climate grids, along with catchment runoff models, predict the frequency and volume of runoff at that dam.

 

Vic Hub project partners: Federation University, Agriculture Victoria, Riverine Plains (NE Node), Birchip Cropping Group (NW Node), Food &

Vic Hub project partners: Federation University, Agriculture Victoria, Riverine Plains (NE Node), Birchip Cropping Group (NW Node), Food & Fibre Gippsland (Gippsland Node)

Project focus areas:

  • digital tools & technologies
  • knowledge of climate & drought risks
  • resilience of agricultural systems (eg: soil, feeds, water, algal blooms)

Project start date: 1 July 2022

Expected end date: 30 September 2024

Project overview:

Many broadacre farming businesses rely on the capture and storage of surface water in multiple small paddock dams for stock and domestic use. These dams have limited capacity to store water for multiple years and rely on regular surface runoff to be replenished.

In a ‘normal’ year reduced runoff may still be sufficient, but in drought conditions they are often inadequate. A lack of water restricts the ability to graze any remaining feed e.g. crop stubble, failed crops or dry standing feed and leads to forced livestock sale (can’t cart water) and restricted domestic use (e.g. gardens).

It also has implications for downstream users (other farmers, environment) reliant on overflow water. Knowing the suitability of existing farm dams helps plan for better drought resilience. The project grows the self-reliance and performance of farmers and managing natural capital. It has both private (farmers) and public (environmental) benefits.