6 March 2024

Far North QLD’s Mareeba-Dimbulah irrigation efficiency project exceeds expectations

| Andrew McLaughlin
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Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme

The Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme has saved 38 per cent more water than expected. Photo: Sunwater.

The Mareeba-Dimbulah Water Supply Scheme located in the Tablelands above Cairns has been hailed as a success after it was found to have far exceeded its water-saving expectations.

The project was designed to improve irrigation water efficiency for the region through the construction of 14 kilometres of pipeline including 4.4 km at East Barron 4, 2.6 km at Atherton Creek and 7 km at Southedge’s West Barron Main Channel.

From the pipeline more than 125 automated channel gates were installed in irrigation channels including at Biboohra storage, Southedge, South Walsh and with an increase to in-channel storage at North Walsh and Atherton Creek.

Completed in 2021, the jointly funded project was undertaken by Queensland water provider Sunwater. The Federal Government contributed $11.6 million through the National Water Grid Fund, while the Queensland Government added $20.94 million.

To date the scheme is reported to have saved some 11,500 megalitres of water, more than 3000 megalitres or 38 per cent more than anticipated, meaning that water will be available for sale to landholders later this year.

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With more than 17,000 hectares of farmland, the Tablelands is considered one of Queensland’s most significant food bowls, and water availability has been a key driver for economic growth and jobs in the region. The Queensland Government says the project will deliver more than $20 million per year in increased agricultural production for the region.

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

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

“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 3550 jobs across the state.

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

Federal Minister for the Environment and Water, Tanya Plibersek said the Federal Government was 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,” she said.

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

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Member for Cook Cynthia Lui added, “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.”

Far North Queensland Growers President Joe Moro said with more water, more people could eat the produce.

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

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

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