Grow­ers can ac­cess state-stored wa­ter

Central and North Rural Weekly - - FRONT PAGE - GE­ORDI OF­FORD Ge­ordi.of­ford@ru­ral­

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

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