Growers can access state-stored water
QUEENSLAND cotton growers have welcomed the passing of a new law allowing them to use water being held in state infrastructure reserves.
Moura-based cotton grower Greg Hutchinson has been a big advocate of the access for many years.
He and his family had to build dams on his 2023- and 2630-hectare properties Glendale and Macander to have the extra water.
“We got fed up with waiting for infrastructure to be built,” he said.
“Basically with the water being held up in those reserves no one could touch it.
“We got tired of waiting for government to do something for us, so we decided to go out there and do it ourselves.”
“So in 2012 we built an 8000-megalitre storage and then another 1600-megalitre one,” Mr Hutchinson said.
Over the last six years they have built three big dams with a total capacity of 6300 megalitres.
Although the wait was frustrating, he said building their own dams had helped during the dry season.
“Building the storage infrastructure has effectively allowed us to drought-proof ourselves so we don’t have to worry about running out of water during the cotton season,” he said.
“Because of our own storage we don’t require a flow from the river before Christmas any more because having the dams lets us pump it and store it during flood events.
“We have plans next year to build another 5000-megalitre storage dam.”
The new law permits water that had been earmarked for projects such as future dams and weirs to become available to productive users through three-year leases when needed.
One of the projects includes the long-proposed Nathan Dam in the Dawson Valley.
“We were advocates of Nathan Dam until the last Environmental Impact Statement was approved which didn't include any allocation for agriculture ,” Mr Hutchinson said.
“There was a massive amount of water being tied up with strategic infrastructure reserves in the Fitzroy Basin namely Nathan Dam, Connors River Dam and Rookwood Weir that wasn’t going to be utilised in a short or immediate term.”
Mr Hutchinson said growers were expecting the bill to pass.
“It wasn’t a matter of if it was going to happen, it was more when it was going to happen,” he said.
“The bill was first tabled in Parliament before the last election and we thought it was going to be announced in August and then it got pushed back until October.
"There’s no reason for it to be delayed, they need to put a price on it and send out an application form and start to get some water stored this wet season."
He said the new access to the states infrastructure reserves will allow producers to increase productivity.
"With this new law we can double our production," he said.
"We’re hoping to go from producing 10,000 bales of cotton a year to 20,000.
"It’s a great time to be involved with the cotton industry, the prices are really good and now we have access to this water to expand."
HAPPY FARMER: Greg Hutchinson said he could potentially double his productivity thanks to new laws allowing him to use state-stored water. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED