Fitzroy River plan bonanza
The Fitzroy River catchment could support 4700 jobs and benefit from $1.1 billion in annual economic activity, according to a study by the CSIRO.
The investigation of water resources in the Mitchell catchment of Darwin, Burdekin in Queensland and the Fitzroy was done on behalf of the Federal Government.
For the Kimberley, the report found pumping water out of the catchment into ring tanks could support 160,000ha of one dryseason crop per year in 85 per cent of years.
“It is physically possible to pump 1700GL of water in 85 per cent of years from major rivers and tributaries in the Fitzroy catchment into ring tanks near agricultural soils,” the report said.
“This volume of water would fill 425 ring tanks, each of capacity 4GL, and cost approximately $935 million.
“This would enable 160,000ha of clay soils under dry-season cotton to be irrigated, generating an annual gross value of production of approximately $750 million.”
The report said a further 30,000ha of hay production could be supported by groundwater in all years.
Kimberley Pilbara Cattleman’s Association chief executive Emma White welcomed the report, saying it would underpin issues such as the implementation of the WA Government’s election commitment to create a Fitzroy River National Park.
“It’s (the report) critical to water allocation planning work they’ll be doing for the Fitzroy catchment, but also the overall land-use management and development framework,” Ms White said.
While the report also mentions the potential for dams, organisations such as the KPCA and Shire of Derby-West Kimberley are interested in non-dam-related water potential.
Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley president Dave Menzel said developers could learn from the issues faced on the Ord River when it came to the Fitzroy.
“With some good science behind it I’m sure there’s some opportunity there, especially for traditional owners, to generate some economic development and work,” he said.
“I think we really seriously need to look at science and see if we can’t make some progress in that area.”
A WA Government spokeswoman said it provided data to the Federal Government for the report but it was not consulted on the final product, its findings or recommendations.