The Queensland Government is investing $20 million in a new drought resilience package for the Southern Downs region, which will include works for the Toowoomba to Warwick pipeline, water treatment and pump upgrades.

Queensland Premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said while recent rain had provided much needed relief to the Southern Downs region, including good inflows into Leslie, Connolly and Storm King Dams, it hasn’t been enough to solve long-term water security issues for the Southern Downs.

“In late 2019, in response to low supplies in the region’s dams, my government committed to plan for a new pipeline from Toowoomba to Warwick,” Ms Palaszczuk said.

“This commitment was in addition to $15 million in emergency assistance provided to cart water into Stanthorpe.

“It’s great news that water carting is no longer needed with Storm King Dam now at 100 per cent capacity but our commitment to provide water security to the wider Southern Downs region still stands.

“That’s why today I’m announcing the next step in providing water security for the region with a $20 million Southern Downs Drought Resilience Package.

“This will provide ongoing emergency relief to this community, as well as form the basis for long-term water security.

“The package provides immediate funding to unlock new water sources, upgrade critical infrastructure and lay the groundwork for the Toowoomba to Warwick pipeline, and also create jobs.”

The package includes:

  • $8.1 million in preparatory works for the Toowoomba to Warwick pipeline, including detailed design, surveying and geotechnical works
  • $4.6 million in upgrades, including enhanced water treatment, to reconnect groundwater available to the Allora township, freeing up to 350ML of additional Southern Downs urban water supply annually
  • $1.4 million to help Southern Downs Regional Council to move a range of industries from using precious urban water supplies to groundwater – including local processing and industrial businesses
  • $4.54 million to increase Leslie Dam’s usable water capacity by upgrading its pumps and water treatment systems, increasing usable storage capacity by an additional 1,700ML
  • $700,000 to support Southern Downs Regional Council investigations into local groundwater supplies for Warwick, Allora and Stanthorpe, and to support Sunwater’s efficiency and innovation investigations at Leslie Dam

Queensland Water Minister, Glenn Butcher, said the immediate measures could deliver an additional 13 months of water supply for the Southern Downs communities and industries; importantly, this package funds preparatory works for the Toowoomba to Warwick pipeline. 

“Back in December 2019, Stanthorpe’s Storm King Dam was close to running dry and Leslie Dam was expected to run dry. Nearby, Connolly Dam was being depleted quickly with water being carted from the dam to supply Stanthorpe,” Mr Butcher said.

“Since then, we’ve been working closely with Southern Downs and Toowoomba Regional Councils to get those regions the relief they need.

“We’ve heard first-hand from people that the certainty provided by the carting kept people in jobs and in the region, so this work which includes laying the pipelines foundations, will provide even more certainty to the region.

“The Palaszczuk Government has also begun scoping a $3 million Regional Water Assessment for the Southern and Darling Downs to investigate opportunities to grow the local economy by identifying long-term water supply options for the region more broadly.

“We’re going out with a bold brief to bring water supply solutions for these regions, which will not only help them survive, but thrive.

“We know water is critical to economic development in our regions and my department is prioritising the assessment for this region.”

Mr Butcher said due to the state’s strong health response to COVID-19, it can push ahead and deliver on Queensland’s plan for economic recovery – including water infrastructure.

“When it comes to water security, we have a proven track record and a plan for the future,” Mr Butcher said.

“Since 2017 we’ve committed $1.2 billion to water infrastructure across this state, supporting almost 23,00 jobs in regional Queensland.”

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