Mareeba Dimbulah irrigation efficiency project better than expected

A project focusing on irrigation efficiency has seen far more water become available for farmers in the Queensland Tablelands.

Thirty-eight per cent more water than expected will be available for Tablelands growers as part of the $32.54 million Mareeba Dimbulah water efficiency project.

Delivered by Sunwater, the water-saving project replaced 14 kilometres of pipeline, installed 125 automated irrigation channel control gates and upgraded 157 water offtakes. The project was jointly funded by the Queensland ($20.94 million) and Australian Governments ($11.6 million).

Rigorous water validation assessments have confirmed at least 11,500 megalitres will be saved annually, far exceeding the project target of 8,306 megalitres.

With more than 17,000 hectares of farmland, the Tablelands is one of Queensland’s most significant food bowls. Water availability is a key driver for economic growth and jobs in the region. The project is expected to deliver more than $20 million per year in increased agricultural production for the Tablelands.

A 30-business day public notice period required to finalise the savings has been completed, and it is expected an auction for the new water allocations will be held in mid-2024.

The project’s infrastructure improvements mean the Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme is more responsive to water demands, reducing overflow losses and allowing for more controlled and regulated water delivery.

The new water available for sale will be the first new water available for permanent purchase in the Mareeba Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme since the 1990s.

Quotes attributable to Queensland Water Minister Glenn Butcher:

“This project is a win for Tablelands growers, a win for the local economy and a win for the environment.

“The additional 11,500 megalitres of water will support the wide variety of crops grown in the Tablelands, including bananas, mangoes, avocados, coffee, tea trees and vegetables.

“Our $20 million investment in this project is part of this government’s record $5.8 billion investment in water infrastructure since 2015, which has created 3,550 jobs across the state.

“We know that more water means more jobs, particularly in food bowl regions like the Tablelands.

“The LNP are one trick ponies when it comes to water. While the LNP huff and puff about building dams but deliver nothing, we’re rolling up our sleeves and delivering practical projects that stack up and make a difference – like the Mareeba-Dimbulah efficiency project.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for the Environment and Water Tanya Plibersek:

“The Albanese Labor Government is committed to providing secure and reliable water right across Queensland.

“It’s fantastic to see this project save even more water than expected, meaning more water goes back to a region known as one of Queensland’s most productive food bowls.

“This is a huge win for growers in the Tablelands who can produce more of the fresh foods Australians rely on and love.”

Quotes attributable to the Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui:

“Tablelands produce makes its way to the fruit shops and grocery stores across Australia – more water means more produce means more local jobs.

“The Mareeba region is an important food bowl, and it is great to see this local project delivering local benefits.”

Quotes attributable to Far North Queensland Growers President Joe Moro:

“The Tablelands is one of our country’s most important food bowls.

“With more water, we can feed more people with our delicious produce.

“This additional water is a long time coming. I’m pleased to see more water will be available for Tablelands growers.

“So many Tableland’s jobs depend on water. I’m pleased to see more water available for more produce and more jobs.”

Quotes attributable to Queensland Farmers’ Federation CEO Jo Sheppard:

“Prioritising water security for growers is critical to the long-term viability of farming enterprises. The Mareeba Dimbulah Water Efficiency Project is a positive outcome for growers in the Tablelands.

“QFF members grow an abundance of crops, from horticulture to cane, with reliable irrigated water vital to on-farm productivity and efficiency. We support the Queensland and Australian government efforts to modernise irrigation schemes and deliver water infrastructure that prioritises water availability and reliability for farmers.”

Quotes attributable to Sunwater CEO Glenn Stockton:

“Sunwater is pleased this complex modernisation project will now boost water reliability and service delivery to our customers across the Mareeba-Dimbulah region.

“The new automated channel gates measure and regulate water flow, which improves the supply scheme’s ability to meet grower demand, as well as make more water available.

“The more than 11,500 megalitres will be the first new water available in the scheme this century. We look forward to seeing how it will bring increased prosperity to the region.”

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