Farmers partner with Hunter Water and Local Land Services to help protect region's water supply

BENEFITS: Mitchell Hooke (John Hooke's son) at his family's Dungog farm which partnered with  Hunter Water and Hunter Local Land Services in a special project.
BENEFITS: Mitchell Hooke (John Hooke's son) at his family's Dungog farm which partnered with Hunter Water and Hunter Local Land Services in a special project.

Dairy farmers involved in a $1.1 million dollar project to improve water quality in the Williams River are enjoying greener pastures.

Thirteen dairies near Dungog took part in the three year Williams River Dairy Effluent and Farm Management Project, to upgrade on-farm effluent systems and develop better fertiliser programs.

The partnership between Hunter Water, Hunter Local Land Services and local dairy farmers aimed to reduce dairy effluent risks to the region’s drinking water supply, while boosting farm productivity.

Seventy-two-year-old farmer John Hooke who has worked his family dairy for 55 years said he was  impressed with the outcome.

“Most of us had pretty outdated systems and the downturn in the milk industry meant we didn’t have available finance to cover the costs of the necessary upgrades,” Mr Hooke said.

“Thanks to Hunter Water and Hunter Local Land Services we were provided the financial assistance to help with the works, which has had a positive benefit for the catchment as well as our own properties.”

Mr Hooke has already noticed improved pasture conditions, through a boost to nitrogen and phosphorous levels in his soil, where the recycled effluent is being used to help grow feed.

Water Quality Scientist John Simpson said Hunter Water’s project partnership with Local Land Services is a great example of how public agencies and farmers can work together to deliver projects with real benefits.

The waste effluent was redirected to keep valuable nutrients on farm, allowing farmers to adjust their fertiliser programs and reduce associated costs. The group was also engaged in Dairy Australia’s Fert$mart program that bases effective fertiliser management on soil test results.

Hunter Local Land Services Project Manager Col Freeman said the farmers made a significant contribution that has had direct benefits to the Williams River catchment.

“The dairy farmers invested over $300,000 between them to bring their effluent management systems up to the highest industry standards, and it’s great to see this level of commitment to the future of their businesses and the dairy industry,” Mr Freeman said.