The CSIRO are conducting a $15million Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment which aims to expand irrigated agriculture across the northern parts of Australia.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, and Minister for Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, said the assessments are now underway in Queensland, Darwin, Western Australia and Adelaide.

Water resource assessments are currently being undertaken in North Queensland’s Mitchell River basin, Adelaide’s the Finniss, the Mary and Wildman river basins in Darwin, and the Fitzroy River basin in Western Australia.

Mr Joyce said, “These assessments are designed to ensure that any investment we make in water infrastructure delivers genuine returns at the farmgate, increases the capacity and productivity of agricultural industries and strengthens regional communities.

“Northern Australia has huge potential for economic development, including in agriculture, aquaculture and mining.

“For example, there are millions of hectares of soil that, with access to suitable water resources, could potentially support irrigated agriculture.”

Mr Joyce said the assessments will help unlock Northern Australia’s potential, by providing a comprehensive evaluation of the feasibility, economic returns and sustainability of water infrastructure in each of these regions.

Mr Joyce said this will be achieved through comprehensive scientific analysis and modelling, and by identifying and testing the commercial viability of development opportunities such as irrigated agriculture, aquaculture, forestry and mining.

Mr Canavan said developing water resources is a key element of the government’s commitment to unlocking the great opportunities of the North and realising the full potential of Northern Australia as an economic powerhouse.

“More than half of Australia’s rainfall occurs in Northern Australia but it remains largely unused. Developing these water resources would remove one of the constraints holding Northern Australia back,” Mr Canavan said.

“The Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment will provide a detailed picture of what resources are available and where, giving us a solid understanding of the scale and nature of the opportunities for development.

Mr Canavan said, this work will build on the CSIRO’s recent assessment of the potential of the Flinders and Gilbert Rivers in the Gulf.

“These are already helping spur investor interest and the allocation of water in these systems.

“In addition to the $15 million for Northern Australia Water Resource Assessment, we are also investing a total of $10million in feasibility studies to look at expanding the Ord irrigation scheme into the Northern Territory and the construction of the Nullinga Dam in Queensland.”

Minister Joyce said the assessments were funded as part of the $500million National Water Infrastructure Development Fund under the White Paper on Developing Northern Australia and Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, and would contribute to regional growth in the north for many years to come.

“The Fund comprises $50million to start the detailed planning necessary to build new water infrastructure, and $450million for capital works,” Mr Joyce said.

“$200million of the Fund is being directed to projects across the north of Western Australia and Queensland, and the Northern Territory.”

The CSIRO will work closely with northern state and territory government agencies, local communities and key industry partners in the delivery of these resource assessments.

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