A local irrigators group in southern Queensland will be the first in the state to manage its own water supply.

Water in the St George region was previously managed by state-government-owned SunWater.

Following a five-year process, that responsibility has now been transferred to Mallawa, which is owned by the local irrigators.

It’s the first time such an arrangement has been put in place, and state Natural Resources Minister Dr Anthony Lynham said it meant local irrigators would have direct responsibility for their water.

“This is an outcome of five years of consultation and work between St George irrigators and the Queensland Government and it means that St George’s irrigators now have full control of their local channel irrigation scheme, including its pump stations, channels, 112km of pipeline and weir infrastructure,” Dr Lynham said on Tuesday.

Mallawa Irrigation Board Chair Luke Stower said the transfer gave them responsibility over 10,000 hectares of land, servicing around 50 customers.

“The transfer means our irrigators can now focus on the future of the St George scheme, take responsibility for its ongoing sustainability, determine the level of service required and manage our own costs at a level we can afford,” Mr Stower said.

SunWater said it was happy to cede control of irrigation to locals, while it will continue to manage drinking water supply in the area.

The Queensland Farmers Federation welcomed the decision, saying local irrigators knew best how to manage local supply.

QFF President Stuart Armitage said while it was the first agreement of its kind, it would likely not be the last.

“It has been a long, six-year process so far and we look forward to the successful transition of the Theodore, Emerald and Eton schemes should irrigators in those regions choose similar agreements,” Mr Armitage said.

By Stuart Layt