Cel­e­brat­ing 50 years

Southern Riverina news - - NEWS - ~ Rhys Wil­liams

The West Corur­gan Pri­vate Ir­ri­ga­tion Scheme cel­e­brated its 50th an­niver­sary at the com­pany’s orig­i­nal pumps sight in Corowa on Fri­day.

About 100 peo­ple gath­ered for a lun­cheon, and to hear board mem­bers past and present speak about the rich his­tory of the ir­ri­ga­tion sys­tem.

David O’Dwyer, son of West Corur­gan pi­o­neer Ray O’Dwyer, rem­i­nisced on the vi­sion his fa­ther had for cre­at­ing a wa­ter sys­tem that would help build a sta­ble com­mu­nity.

‘‘From a pipe dream in 1946, a seed was sewn to start the Corur­gan sys­tem. And what a won­der­ful suc­cess it’s turned out to be,’’ David said.

‘‘There wouldn’t be a drop of wa­ter in a dam be­tween here and Ber­ri­gan if it wasn’t for Corur­gan.’’

Since Oc­to­ber 1968, when the first pump was started and wa­ter flowed into what is known as the O’Dwyer main canal, the West Corur­gan scheme has been pro­vid­ing wa­ter to the re­gion.

West Corur­gan Pri­vate Ir­ri­ga­tion serves about 300 prop­er­ties cov­er­ing an area of some 212,000 hectares be­tween the Mur­ray River and the Bil­l­abong Creek. The area is bounded by the towns of Corowa, Days­dale, Oak­lands, Jer­ilderie, Ber­ri­gan, Sav­er­nake and Ren­nie.

De­spite its clear ser­vice to the com­mu­nity, not ev­ery­one shared the same fore­sight as the orig­i­nal in­no­va­tors of the scheme, ac­cord­ing to life mem­ber Jim San­dral.

‘‘The wa­ter com­mis­sion told us we wouldn’t get it off the mark and in­ci­den­tally the gov­ern­ment never put a dol­lar in to help us out, so it was all fi­nanced by the farm­ers,’’ he said.

‘‘We had two great pi­o­neers in Ray Bur­wood and Ray O’Dwyer cre­ate the scheme. They knew what a tough job it was liv­ing in the bush and en­dur­ing dry years with no wa­ter.’’

The wa­ter serves sheep and beef pro­duc­tion, rice, vegetable, oilseeds and ce­real crop­ping in the area, which an­nu­ally pro­duces $90,000,000 worth of agri­cul­tural crops.

The Land and Wa­ter Man­age­ment Plan cur­rently in place en­sures the sus­tain­abil­ity of the ir­ri­ga­tion scheme, as the board is al­ways look­ing at the best man­age­ment prac­tices to en­sure that West Corur­gan ir­ri­ga­tion re­mains a vi­able source of wa­ter for the com­mu­nity.

“Af­ter 50 years of ir­ri­ga­tion, the scheme still de­liv­ers wa­ter quite ef­fi­ciently to its ir­ri­ga­tors. This is a tes­ta­ment to the peo­ple who de­signed and built the scheme,’’ cur­rent chair James Nixon said.

‘‘I’d like to thank the pre­vi­ous boards that have metic­u­lously car­ried enough wa­ter to run the sys­tem in the dri­est of years,’’ he added.

West Corur­gan board mem­bers (from left) Sam Nixon, Peter Day, James Nixon, Lawry Simp­son, Max Arnold and Gor­don Fox en­joy 50th an­niver­sary lun­cheon. AB­SENT: Michael Hawkins and Geoff Moar.

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