Irrigation Challenges

Irrigation districts in Australia face a variety of management and operational challenges not experienced by their American counterparts. Below is a small sampling of some of their more unique challenges.

Kangaroos are constant driving hazards along rural roads and major highways. They are attracted to puddles of water in the road that form after it rains. Kangaroos can weigh up to 200 pounds and can cause severe vehicle damage and injury to occupants if struck at a high speed. They tend to travel in groups (mobs) and generally rest during the day. Kangaroos are most active between dusk and dawn.

Panicum effusum, known as hairy panic or panic grass, is a native Australian grass that is drought tolerant and fast growing. It can reach up to 27 inches tall. In dry climates, the grass can flourish into a tumbleweed and clog canal systems.

Cherax destructor, known as the yabby, is a common Australian crustacean that thrives in bodies of freshwater, including dams and irrigation canals. Unlike the crayfish in the United States, yabbies are similar in size to lobsters, ranging from 3 to 12 inches in length. Yabbies can dig deep burrows, from 20 inches to 6 feet deep, along cement walls of irrigation infrastructure, causing piping and sometimes canal wall failure. The addition of a crushed limestone barrier to the wall can keep them at bay because of limestone's alkaline quality. Considered a nuisance to irrigation managers, they can be trapped and eaten like crayfish and lobster.

Australia has 21 of the 25 most venomous snakes in the world. Irrigation district workers must wear protective snake gaiters during the irrigation season, September to March. In warmer weather, snakes may been sighted in workplaces, so it is important for workers to be vigilant while working near channels and in tall grass.

The brown widow spider, latrodectus geometricus, is commonly found in Australia. Brown widows thrive in well-lit areas, including on eaves of buildings, ledges of brick walls, top boards of wooden fences, or chainlink fences. Brown widow spider bites are not as venomous as black widow spiders; sometimes their bites do not even release venom.

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