The Coalition Government will invest almost $1.4 million to assess the feasibility of three irrigation projects in Western Australia.
The funding includes $268,994 to investigate the potential for an irrigation scheme in the Oakover Valley using water produced by operations at the Woodie Woodie mine, $960,000 to assess an opportunity for irrigation agriculture in the Pilbara using managed aquifer recharge and $162,000 to study using a siphon to service new land in the Ord region.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources, Barnaby Joyce, Minister for Northern Australia, Matt Canavan, and Member for Durack, Melissa Price, released the details of the funding as part of the National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.
“The Government is expediting the planning work required to get water infrastructure projects shovel-ready,” Mr Joyce said.
“We’re serious about ensuring water infrastructure gets built as quickly as possible, to help support strong regional economies and communities.
“This work is a key part of the process, detailing the feasibility, economic returns and sustainability of this project, as we identify the best sites to deliver new water infrastructure.”
Mr Canavan said the three studies would identify opportunities for agricultural expansion in the north of the state.
“Northern Australia has huge untapped potential. It has 17 million hectares of arable soil and receives 60 per cent of the nation’s rainfall — of which we use less than two per cent.
“We need to build dams to develop the north. Water brings industry, jobs, growth and, most of all, people. Our plan will deliver jobs and growth for the north but it is also important for the rest of the country. When our north grows, so does the rest of Australia,” Mr Canavan said.
Ms Price said that she was excited by the potential offered by all three projects.
“The Oakover Valley project will investigate the potential nature and viability of a 5000 hectare irrigation scheme using water from the dewatering surplus of the nearby Woodie Woodie Mine,” Ms Price said.
“This could potentially provide up to an additional 40 000 million litres a year of surface water and 60 000 million litres a year of groundwater—this study will look at how best to unlock this potential and put this water to productive use.
“The Pilbara Irrigated Agriculture Feasibility Study will review managed aquifer recharge combined with conjunctive water use in the region. The Pilbara region has been chosen as it has wide alluvial aquifers in close proximity to the ephemeral rivers.
“This study is designed to provide supplementary feed for the beef industry during periods of drought.
“The Ord River proposal will investigate using a siphon structure under the Lower Ord River to gravity-feed water to currently non-irrigated land. The proposal has the potential to supply water at no greater volumetric cost than to existing irrigation farming areas,” Ms Price said.
Mr Joyce said the Coalition was delivering on its $2.5 billion commitment to building the water infrastructure of the future.
“It’s the right time for our significant investment in water infrastructure. A transitioning economy and growing global demand for agrifood products mean this is a time of unprecedented opportunity for our agriculture sector,” Mr Joyce said.
“As the economy transitions and diversifies, agricultural exports are playing a more important role than ever in our nation’s economy and prosperity. Rural exports have already overtaken coal to become our second-largest export after iron ore.
“The Coalition is taking action by carrying out the most significant investment in infrastructure in Australian history, including through the roll-out of our $15 billion water reform agenda, so we can make the most of these opportunities.
“From water infrastructure, to transport infrastructure and digital infrastructure, the Coalition is laying the foundations to support a productive and profitable agriculture sector, and a strong national economy,” Mr Joyce said.