Mr Butcher and representatives at site

The Queensland Government has said that Sunwater’s $32.5 million Mareeba Dimbulah water irrigation efficiency project is yielding more water than expected. 

Completed in 2021 under joint funding from the Queensland State and Federal Governments, the project has produced approximately 38 per cent more water than originally projected. 

Delivered by Sunwater, the water-saving project replaced 14km of pipeline, installed 125 automated irrigation channel control gates, and upgraded 157 water offtakes. 

Rigorous water validation assessments have shown that at least 11,500ML will be saved annually, exceeding the initial project target of 8,306ML.

The water is designed to be used by Tablelands banana, mango, avocado, coffee and vegetable growers.

With more than 17,000ha of farmland, the Tablelands is one of Queensland’s most significant food bowls and water availability is a key driver for economic growth and jobs in the region. 

The project is expected to deliver more than $20 million per year in increased agricultural production for the Tablelands.

A 30 business day public notice period required to finalise the savings has been completed, and it is expected an auction for the new water allocations will be held in mid-2024.

The project’s infrastructure improvements mean the Mareeba–Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme is more responsive to water demands, reducing overflow losses and allowing for more controlled and regulated water delivery.

The new water available for sale will be the first new water available for permanent purchase in the Mareeba Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme since the 1990s.

Queensland Minister for Water, Glenn Butcher, said, “This project is a win for Tablelands growers, a win for the local economy and a win for the environment.

“The additional 11,500ML of water will support the wide variety of crops grown in the Tablelands, including bananas, mangoes, avocados, coffee, tea trees and vegetables.

“Our $20 million investment in this project is part of this government’s record $5.8 billion investment in water infrastructure since 2015 which has created 3,550 jobs across the state. 

“We know that more water means more jobs, particularly in food bowl regions like the Tablelands.

“We’re rolling up our sleeves and delivering practical projects that stack up and make a difference – like the Mareeba-Dimbulah efficiency project,” Mr Butcher said.

Queensland Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek, said, “The Labor Government is committed to providing secure and reliable water right across Queensland.

“It’s fantastic to see this project save even more water than expected, meaning more water goes back to a region known as one of Queensland’s most productive food bowls.

“This is a huge win for growers in the Tablelands who can produce more of the fresh foods Australians rely on and love,” Ms Plibersek said.

Queensland Member for Cook, Cynthia Lui, said, “Tablelands produce makes its way to the fruit shops and grocery stores across Australia – more water means more produce means more local jobs.

“The Mareeba region is an important food bowl, and it is great to see this local project delivering local benefits,” Ms Lui said.

Far North Queensland Growers President, Joe Moro, said, “The Tablelands is one of our country’s most important food bowls.

“With more water, we can feed more people with our delicious produce.

“This additional water is a long time coming and I’m pleased to see more water will be available for Tablelands growers.

“So many Tablelands jobs depend on water and I’m pleased to see more water available for more produce and more jobs,” Mr Moro said.

Queensland Farmers’ Federation Chief Executive Officer, Jo Sheppard, said, “Prioritising water security for growers is critical to the long-term viability of farming enterprises and the Mareeba Dimbulah Water Efficiency Project is a positive outcome for growers in the Tablelands.

“Queensland Farmers’ Federation members grow an abundance of crops, from horticulture to cane, with reliable irrigated water vital to on-farm productivity and efficiency. We support the Queensland and Australian government efforts to modernise irrigation schemes and deliver water infrastructure that prioritises water availability and reliability for farmers,” Ms Sheppard said.

Sunwater Chief Executive Officer, Glenn Stockton, said, “Sunwater is pleased this complex modernisation project will now boost water reliability and service delivery to our customers across the Mareeba-Dimbulah region.

“The new automated channel gates measure and regulate water flow, which improve the supply scheme’s ability to meet grower demand, as well as make more water available.

“The more than 11,500ML will be the first new water available in the scheme this century and we look forward to seeing how it will bring increased prosperity for the region,” Mr Stockton said.

Featured image: Queensland Minister for Water, Glenn Butcher, and representatives at project site. Courtesy of the Queensland Government.

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