Water for Wildlife & Rice

Producing ecological and socio-economic outcomes.

Water for Wildlife & Rice

Producing ecological and socio-economic outcomes.


The issue

Much of Australia's water is managed for either agricultural or environmental purposes. As it stands the two management processes are in parallel and no one site aims to deliver outcomes for both wildlife and agriculture. However, local farmer Peter McDonald belives the answer may lie within existing rice farms. Although intended for agricultural purpose, these farms act as surrogate wetlands, home to over 50 wildlife species such as the Australasian Bittern, Painted Snipe and Southern Bell Frog. Unfortunatley, a decrease in irrigation water coupled with higher water prices has led to a reduction in ponding duration by up to 75 days, deeming crops unsuitable for many native species.

The solution

This project aimed to run a pilot farm which would maximise the habitat value of a rice crop and adjacent surrogate wetlands. To achieve this a crowdfunding campaign was created to cover additional costs incurred to make the crop “wildlife friendly”. The campaign offered rewards for different levels of investment from supporters, from a “thank you” card through to “rice farm bird watching tours with a wildlife expert”. The campaign ran for a month with an investment target of $12,000.

In addition, a business case was developed for a co-operative to facilitate a water trading platform to ecourage entitlement holders to retain water in the region to be used for rice production and the protection of wildlife. Their key product would be to offer shareholders a leasing arrangement which would provide more security for ricegrowers in their farm planning at a reduced cost and offer entitlement holders a return on investment of 3-3.5%.

The impact

Farms support a host of rare species not necessarily suited to areas mostly targeted for environmental water delivery in the low to mid floodplain. If irrigated cropping becomes less frequent, the ecological systems on the mid to high floodplain will suffer. Agriculture is the main economic driver in the region, with most of the community and local business dependent on it. The reduction in available irrigation water has affected on-farm profitability and as a result has considerably impacted the socio-economic status of the region and overall community morale. If an alternate income source could be developed to support rice farms, the environment and the community, this would have enormous implications for the region. 


Unfortunately, the crowd funding campaign in 2018 fell short of its investment target, with investment reaching $7,500 out of the $12,000 required. Soon after water allocations were reduced to zero for entitlement holders, making the cooperative business case (and rice production) unviable in the near future. 

Key facts

  • A crowdfunding campaign for a pilot “wildlife friendly” rice crop was created to attract investment of $12,000.
  • A business case was created for non-profit water trading platform encouraging investors to keep water within the region.

Project Partners