Mundubbera irrigators call for solution to constant water woes

Mundubbera irrigators could be without water supply again


Cropping
Boyne River Irrigator Advisory Committee Chairman Ken Darrow said growers were at the mercy of politicians when it came to their water shortages.

Boyne River Irrigator Advisory Committee Chairman Ken Darrow said growers were at the mercy of politicians when it came to their water shortages.

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It’s the third time in two years that growers in the region have faced uncertainty over their water supplies.

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MUNDUBBERA irrigators and local politicians are calling on the state government to invest in more water storage options for the region as they face the possibility of a water cut off again.

The Boondooma Dam is currently at 38.9 per cent of full capacity (79,332ML) and is expected to reach its 30 per cent (70,000ML) cutoff levels by late August, meaning medium priority water allocations for irrigation cease. 

It’s the third time in two years that growers in the region have faced uncertainty over their supplies.

Meetings were held ahead of impending cut offs in June 2016, May 2017 and April this year with irrigation allocations halted in 2008 and 2017. 

A similar situation occurred in 2005 when irrigators spent two and a half years without the supply.

The remaining 30 per cent in the dam is dedicated to high priority allocations, including the Tarong Power Station.

The Smart Berries farm at Mundubbera uses the Boondooma Dam water and is estimating a 1,000 tonne crop, worth millions of dollars.

The Smart Berries farm at Mundubbera uses the Boondooma Dam water and is estimating a 1,000 tonne crop, worth millions of dollars.

But, the power station also source water from Wivenhoe Dam, opening a possible option for growers to purchase their Boondooma water stocks during the cut off. 

A meeting between Boyne River irrigators and SunWater in April found that raising the Boondooma Dam was not an economically viable option due to the cost being borne by water charges. 

Instead, growers called for further investigations into a potential weir at Cooranga, allowing a 5000ML storage downstream of the dam.

A SunWater spokesperson said they were currently assessing the availability of survey information to support these requests.

Michelle Chicken and Boyd Paton in their pecan trees at Mundubbera that rely on the irrigation water.

Michelle Chicken and Boyd Paton in their pecan trees at Mundubbera that rely on the irrigation water.

In addition, they are working with customers to maximise the efficiency of releases from Boondooma dam, including the introduction of water ordering to ensure volume release closely match requirements. 

Boyne River Irrigator Advisory Committee Chairman Ken Darrow said growers were promised a solution to their water woes back in the the late 90s.

“The Goss government actually promised it to us but they lost that election coming up,” he said.

Decades later local growers are still at the mercy of politicians, as they constantly fight for a long term solution to their water cut offs.

Mr Darrow has invested heavily in storage dams on his Mundubbera property as a way to keep his business secure during the Boondooma Dam water shortages. 

Pecans on the trees at Mundubbera.

Pecans on the trees at Mundubbera.

But, he said, a lot of operations on the system didn’t have those options. 

“It’s heartbreaking really,” he said. 

“We have been fighting the government bureaucracy since 1993 with no luck.

“We just don’t have the political push that is necessary, that’s basically it, but yet our little region produces $90 million dollars every year in gross production for the Queensland and Australian economy.” 

Member for Callide Colin Boyce contacted the Minister for Natural Resources, Mines and Energy, Dr Anthony Lynham, about the water problem, but is yet to have a formal response. 

He said the state government could allocate $45 million to a 2.4km bikeway but hadn’t fixed a constant problem facing a $100 million industry. 

“In the long term what we need is more water storage,” he said.

“The best way to do that is dip the go ahead to the construction of the Cooranga weir on the Boondooma River. If you get to spend $45 million on a bikeway, why can’t you spend similar or less amount of money on Cooranga?” 

Dr Lynham’s office told the Queensland Country Life that he was aware of the reliance local industry had on Boondooma Dam as a water supply.

“The Minister asked the Department to urgently look into the issue,” a spokesperson said.

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