West Corurgan celebrates 50 years

By Corowa Free Press

By Rhys Williams

The West Corurgan private irrigation scheme celebrated its 50th anniversary at their original pumps sight in Corowa on Friday.

Close to a hundred people gathered at the original sight for a luncheon, and to hear board members of past and present speak about the rich history of the irrigation system.

Among those that spoke was David O’Dwyer, son of West Corurgan pioneer Ray O’Dwyer, who 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,” Mr O’Dwyer 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 essential water to the region.

West Corurgan Private Irrigation Stock and Garden Water Supply District serves approximately 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 said 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 themselves.

“It’s a great thing 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,” he said.

The irrigation scheme 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 that designed and built the scheme,” current Chairman, 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.”