Victoria, Australia, April 15, 2010 -- Australia's largest water infrastructure project, the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline, has been completed six years ahead of schedule, securing the region's water supply and providing a lifeline for towns, sport, farms, rivers and businesses.
In Horsham, the Premier John Brumby today announced the completion of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline project and said its completion signalled the end of water supply uncertainty for the Wimmera and locked-in the future prosperity of the region for generations to come.
"I am delighted to be here today to celebrate this momentous occasion with Wimmera and Mallee communities who for decades to come will have a secure water supply for their towns, lakes, gardens and sporting grounds," Mr Brumby said.
"After more than 13 years of drought these communities faced the very real prospect of running out of water but the fast-tracking of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline project has secured this region's future and means it can continue to grow and thrive.
"The Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline is a great example of how governments can work with communities to achieve major benefits for regional and rural prosperity with the project fast-tracked and completed in three and a half years instead of the 10 years originally proposed."
The Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline project involved replacing 17,000 kilometres of a leaky, old, open channel system with 8,800 kilometres of underground pipeline. The pipeline will save on average 103 billion litres of water a year.
The pipleline will provide continuous water supply to approximately 9000 farms and 34 townships across the Wimmera and Mallee, delivering an economic boost of $637 million.
As the project neared completion, GWMWater late last year eased water restrictions for more than 40 towns across the region and delivered environmental flows to its rivers.
To mark the completion of the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline 8,800 Golden Perch fingerlings were today released into the Wimmera River -- one fish for each kilometre of pipeline.
More fish have been able to be stocked in the Wimmera River because of additional environmental flows from the Wimmera-Mallee pipeline.
"We have already seen the return of the Dimboola Rowing regatta after years in which rowers couldn't row because of dismal water levels in the Wimmera River caused by prolonged drought," Mr Brumby said.
"We have already seen local sporting clubs across the Wimmera receive water from the pipeline to keep their grounds running after years of trying to cart water to keep sport alive.
"And we have already seen the return of water to Hopetoun's Lake Lascelles, Green Lake, Tchum Lake and Warracknabeal Weir Pool and with that, the return of tourists.
"On a personal note, the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline is one of the projects of which I am most proud. I first raised the need to pipe the Wimmera in my maiden speech to the Federal Parliament in 1983 when I spoke of the need to replace leaky, ageing channels in the Wimmera with water-saving pipes.
"I distinctly remember visiting the Wimmera as Treasurer and State and Regional Development Minister and speaking to many people in the region about the need for this project.
"I subsequently approved funding for a feasibility study for the project and then approved the first $77 million in funding for the pipeline project in our 2002 State Budget."
The major national project - which attracted $266 million from the Victorian Government -- is now a cornerstone of the Victorian Water Grid.
"The pipeline is an important part of the Victorian Water Grid, a network of pipes, channels and rivers that will allow movement of water within Victoria to where it is needed, when it is needed," Mr Brumby said.
"It is a great example of a partnership between our Government, the Australian Government and GWMWater on behalf of the community who campaigned actively to put the need for a new, modernised water supply system on the national agenda."
The Victorian Government provided $266 million towards the project which was estimated to cost $688 million after the project was fast-tracked.
Other benefits of the Wimmera Mallee Pipeline Project include:
• 83 billion litres of water a year to the region's river systems including the Wimmera River and the Murray River system as environmental flows; and
• 20 billion litres of additional growth water for regional economic development including 2 billion litres which will service townships around Hamilton and surrounding towns.
Water Minister Tim Holding said the completion of the project was another key piece of water infrastructure delivered by the Brumby Government.
"The Victorian Government's Water Plan is insuring communities for future growth against ongoing drought and a changing climate," Mr Holding said.
"Hundreds of towns have had their water restrictions eased in the past 18 months because of projects like the Wimmera-Mallee Pipeline, the Goldfields Superpipe near Ballarat and the Anglesea Borefield near Geelong."
Agriculture Minister and Member for Ripon Joe Helper said the project would benefit about 10 per cent of Victoria from the Grampians to the Murray River including Horsham, Stawell, Ararat, Warracknabeal and St Arnaud.
"This is a great day for all communities in western Victoria," Mr Helper said.
"I would like to congratulate GWMWater for delivering this project and thank the community for its support and input throughout planning and construction."