This week marks the first day of business for the National Water Grid Authority. Announced by the Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack during the 2019 election campaign and officially launched last month, this new statutory authority is intended to deliver strategic planning and project management for water infrastructure, security and policy across the country.
The Authority will look at how large-scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost-effective water to farmers and regional communities. To form its views, the Authority will bring together the world’s best scientists, water experts and local stakeholder engagement. This combination is critical, and it must be unwavering. Science and ground truthing, not politics, must drive future large-scale water infrastructure investment.
Queensland farmers and irrigators support investment in new water infrastructure in the right regions that can create further opportunities for high value agriculture and the regional communities the sector supports. But critical to the success of the National Water Grid and any resultant water infrastructure is the issue of decreasing water affordability for agriculture. To build new infrastructure without addressing this issue may undermine the intention to support local communities and increase agricultural productivity.
The construction of new water infrastructure must not distract from the need to upgrade, improve and increase efficiencies in existing irrigation areas throughout the state. Farm businesses, communities and taxpayers have already invested in these areas, so governments must guarantee appropriate ongoing investment here first to provide certainty. In Queensland, we already have a significant amount of underutilised water in some systems and urgently need solutions for additional water into highly productive agricultural areas.
The prolonged drought is highlighting to everyone how precious this resource is, and that we must do better in managing our existing water infrastructure and in our decision making around future water investments. As the peak body uniting and representing irrigated agriculture in Queensland, QFF must play a key role in the Authority’s work to ensure our issues and experiences are understood and they inform potential water projects in Queensland.