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The Queensland Government has announced changes to the 2020-21 Sunwater water sharing rules in order to maximise water availability.

All the water sitting in Paradise Dam will be prioritised for existing customers, including Burnett farmers, while more work is done to identify a long-term solution. 

In the meantime, Building Queensland will continue its analysis after its initial report said further investigation was required before it could advise government on a long-term spillway height for the dam.

Queensland Resources Minister, Dr Anthony Lynham, said the changes would assist in giving growers more certainty.

“The changes I am announcing mean water users will receive more of their allocation for 2020-2021, even with the dam’s water levels kept at 42 per cent,” Dr Lynham said.

“In fact, with normal rain this means that more water is now going to be available to growers than if no changes had been necessary to the dam.

“In the difficult times we are facing now with the Coronavirus emergency, any business investment, expansion and new jobs will be greatly needed.”

Dr Lynham said that more certainty would mean farmers would have three months’ notice to help in their planning for the next financial year’s cropping.

“This move to amend the water sharing arrangements for the dam is about security for local growers, but also for their employees, their families and the local community,” Dr Lynham said.

“The priority remains community safety, and the works about to start to lower the spillway some five metres will ensure that.

“The next consideration is water security for producers and the region, and that’s what these latest measures will provide.”

Water will also continue to be free whenever Sunwater has to release water to keep the dam at 42 per cent for safety reasons.

Dr Lynham said the recently released Building Queensland Paradise Dam Options Assessment report recognised the significance of agricultural production to the region

“We are listening closely to this advice, and to Sunwater’s Irrigator Advisory Committee and the new Burnett Catchment Industry Forum.

“Let me rule out, once and for all, any decommissioning of Paradise Dam.

“Paradise Dam will continue to underpin economic prosperity in Bundaberg and the surrounding region for generations to come.”

The Building Queensland Paradise Dam Options Assessment report says further investigations is needed into three options once the spillway is reduced by five metres:

  • Maintain the same height 
  • Raise the spillway back, to a level to be advised
  • Lower the spillway further, with extra alternative water supply options as required

Further work to be done in 2020 includes:

  • Geotechnical investigations of the dam’s foundations
  • Anchoring trials
  • Additional testing of the roller compacted concrete
  • Detailed assessments of water demand in the region

In the meantime, Dr Lynham said essential works to lower the spillway by about five meters were on track to start in May 2020 to enhance the community’s safety ahead of the next wet season.  

The $100 million contract will create 80 jobs and is scheduled to be completed by the third quarter of 2021.

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