NORTH Queensland’s massive flood disaster has once again sparked support for the development of a mega Bradfield-style irrigation scheme to water the inland.
With billions of megalitres of water flooding out to sea, major parts of southern Queensland, NSW, and South Australia remain in extreme drought.
Bradfield’s massive agricultural scheme was first proposed in 1938. It aimed to irrigate a staggering 1000 million hectares of land across Queensland and South Australia.
Queensland-born civil engineer Dr John Bradfield proposed water be diverted from the Tully, the Herbert and the Burdekin Rivers, across the Great Dividing Range into the Flinders and then the Thomson River.
Under the grand scheme, water would be used to grow a wide variety of crops including rice, cotton, wheat and tree crops as well as producing feed for cattle and sheep before eventually filling Lake Eyre.
Bradfield proposed water be diverted from the Tully, the Herbert and the Burdekin Rivers, across the Great Dividing Range into the Flinders and then the Thomson River.
As Dr Bradfield’s map shows, the vision was to drought proof a vast area of inland Australia.
However, the scheme did not stand up to scrutiny. The headline grabbing project was officially rejected in 1947 when respected hydraulic engineer William Nimmo found water flows from the easterly flowing rivers were less than had been calculated by Bradfield.
It seemed calculations based on German rivers did not translate to Australia’s arid outback.
In addition, suggestions that evaporation from the diverted water would result in the formation of rain bearing clouds were also dismissed.
That has not stopped politicians – including former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie – from promoting the grand scheme, at least in modified versions. One Nation and the Katter Party have also promoted Bradfield.
LNP Senate candidate Susan McDonald said Bradfield's time has finally come; maybe not the construction of the mega engineering scheme he proposed for the inland in 1938, but the overriding vision of water capture projects that grow Australia.
Ms McDonald said while there was always debate about the often romanticised Bradfield Scheme, there was much that could be done to practically develop inland Australia.
The recent feasibility study confirming the viability of the $5.35 billion irrigated Hell’s Gate Dam agricultural and power project on the upper Burdekin River should be the catalyst for this thinking.
“Bradfield had it right that water is liquid gold and the lifeblood of the nation,” Ms McDonald said.
“As producers and farmers we understand this very well. And I think everyone in Australia well knows our towns and cities can’t survive without water, especially when we are faced with major population growth.”
Ms McDonald said rain events appeared to have become larger and less frequent, meaning there was a need to smooth out the variability.
“Now is the time to invest in Australia’s future success,” she said.
“Whatever we do, it will never be as cheap as it is today. No matter what the cost, it will be more expensive in the future.”
While not endorsing Bradfield, LNP opposition natural resources spokesman Dale Last said more job creating dams were required.
“Water is more precious than gold and we should be doing everything possible to capture it, store it and utilise it to grow our state,” Mr Last said.
“Raise the Burdekin Falls Dam wall, get the Urannah and Nullinga Dam projects shovel ready and finally deliver Rockwood Weir for Central Queensland. It is an absolute travesty to see all the flood water flowing out to sea when we have parts of this state still in the grip of drought.”