Interactive Map of Revised Bradfield Scheme

It is really amazing what can be done with geographic information on the web now. Above is an interactive Revised Bradfield Scheme that I did up in a few hours using Queensland Globe for editing, and ArcGIS for sharing. ArcGIS allows a paste into a web document or a web app so I will certainly be looking into that in the future.

Click on the plus or minus to zoom in or out. All locations are approximate. The legend for the above is as follows.

The shaded green polygons are dams: Hells Gate Dam in the north and the two storages Lake Buchanan and Lake Galilee in the south. They are connected by a red line which is the northern collector aqueduct, harvesting flows from the Burdekin river and creeks along the way to the main storages. The green lines are the distribution aqueducts, transferring water from the two storages to the main northern areas of the black earth country from Hughenden to Richmond and Julia Creek and the southern distributor to Longreach and Winton. Blue lines are watercourses – of course.

The red dots are open water monitoring stations that provide daily flow data. The black square is the approximate location of Adani Mine which may also potentially draw water from the scheme. The opaque light green areas are protected environment such as national parks – demonstrating the scheme does not impact any existing protected area.

Zoom in far enough and the contours come into view. Please note the locations of the routes are approximate at present. There is a great deal of work to be done to refine the scheme as we are at a preliminary feasibility assessment stage.

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Categories: Bradfield Scheme

Roman Aqueducts – then and now

The groundwater at Rome was notoriously unpalatable, and water from the Tiber was unsafe to drink. Aqua Appia, Rome’s first aqueduct (312 BC) was commissioned by the censor Appius Claudius Caecus as a publicly funded major project.

By the late 3rd century AD, Roman aqueducts supplied Rome with water by a combined conduit length of 800 kilometres, of which only 47 km were carried above ground level by the familiar masonry supports. They supplied around 1 million cubic metres (ie 10,000 GigaLitres) a day; enough to supply a modern city of population of 10 million. The longest was the Constantinople (Turkey) around 500 km. Gradients for Roman Aqueduct were 1:4800 and typically around a metre wide and deep with a flow rate estimated to be about 35,000 m3 /day (or 350GL/day) depending on the season .

With the fall of the Roman Empire, some aqueducts were deliberately cut by enemies but many more fell into disuse through lack of organized maintenance. Their failure had an impact on the population of cities; Rome declined from its high of over 1 million people in the Imperial era to as low as 30,000 in the medieval era. 

The New Bradfield Scheme is very similar length, capacity and function to the Roman aqueducts being totally gravity fed. With an estimated fall of 1:5000, 100m from Hell’s Gate over a distance of 500 km to the Lakes Buchanan and Galilee Storages, a wider, lined channel could easily provide the 20,000GL per annum. Harvesting the flow from streams along would be possible, or desirable helping to reduce flooding lower in the catchments and leading to potentially greater harvest rates. Spillways would dump the excess if the water level got too high.

As Sir Humphrey Appleby said about public projects (‘Yes, Minister’): “Anything is possible for government, so long as it isn’t the first time.” The Roman Empire has done a similar-sized gravity-fed aqueduct system 2000 years ago.

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Elevations of Locations in Bradfield Scheme

The experts say it can’t be done, but a close look at the elevations of the sources, storages and destinations for the Bradfield Scheme says otherwise.

The ideal gradient for an open gravity-fed irrigation channel is 1:5000 or 100m per 500 km. Any flatter and the flow slows and steeper risks damage. This is the typical gradient for the Roman aqueduct system totaling over almost 1000 km delivering 10,000 GigaLitres of fresh water to Rome per day.

In an eastern Bradfield Scheme, the elevation goes from 430m at Niall near the Burdekin River to Lake Buchanan over the 500km to the main storage at 340m at Lake Buchanan and 280m on Lake Galilee. This is an average gradient of 1:5000.

The water could potentially be distributed throughout the whole of the fertile black soil plains area of Central West Queensland, from Barcaldine at 267m and Aramac at 226m, to Longreach and Richmond at around 200m, as far as Julia Creek at 132m about 500 km from Barcaldine (light blue polygon). Again 1:5000.

The topography starts to rise towards Hughenden at 318m and Blackall 284m and so would set the furthest extent for a gravity-fed supply. However, the land continues to fall towards Birdsville 48m and Innaminika 16m and so could continue to be fed in a south-western direction.

The Tully Falls near Cairns at 670m elevation and Herbert River are viable sources of gravity-fed inflow to the scheme.

The black soil plains of Central West Queensland currently support mainly low intensity grazing due to the irregular water availability. However, they are well located to supply communities to the north, south, east and west with higher value agricultural products, including irrigated cotton, wheat, and horticultural products. This would be enabled by a well established infrastructure of rail and road connections.

Water from the scheme would also augment town water supplies, many of which are under extreme pressure, where the drought-hit town of Ilfracombe has even imported a temporary desalination plant.

Water from the eastern portion of the scheme may largely flow to the Muttaburra, Aramac, Longreach and Barcaldine area, while from the western portion of the scheme fed by Gulf rivers may supplement areas such as Richmond and Julia Creek.

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Proposal for a mini-Bradfield Irrigation Scheme

Above is a schematic diagram of a gravity-fed mini-Bradfield Scheme transporting water from the coastal rivers via a levy/pipeline combination (blue) to the storage and distribution lakes on the Great Dividing Range (green).

The levy would accumulate water from the Burdekin River at Hell’s Gate (note the dam would not be needed) and acquire the additional water en route at the Basalt, Campaspe and Cape Rivers (purple). These are headwater collections and so would not impact the regular flows greatly, and help to mitigate flood flows downstream.

The storage lakes of Lake Buchanan and Lake Galilee are currently dry salt lakes whose capacity would be greatly expanded by dams at a few strategic locations. The lakes are uniquely positioned at intermediate elevations on the Great Dividing Range allowing stored water to be gravity fed to the destinations.

From the storage lakes, channels or pipelines would distribute the water where and when needed – to industrial uses east of the Divide such as the Adani Mine, and to new irrigation areas west of the Divide around Muttaburra, Aramac, Barcaldine and Longreach.

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Bradfield Scheme Helps to Support Rural Immigration Policies

The Morrison government will try to lure skilled migrants away from the nation’s choked cities with a new visa requiring them to spend at least three years in regional Australia as a condition of seeking permanent residency.

Under proposed changes, backpackers will now be able to stay with agricultural employers beyond six months and will be able to triple the length of their stay if they do extra agricultural work.  This is a move which is aimed at rural Australia and farmers specifically.

The Bradfield Scheme would dramatically boost agricultural production in rural Australia up to $50 billion per annum.

Creating a network of dams and pipelines in outback Australia would help reverse the population drift to the major coastal cities. Towns would develop to service new agricultural activities. Transport and tourism would follow, with the necessary transport infrastructure being developed. This would encourage greater travel through, and more settlement in, the great Australian outback.

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I have long been a supporter of ecologically sustainable development. To maintain the ecological conditions in which species and humans can survive is the foundation for ensuring that every creature lives on despite an ecosystem where thousands cease to exist annually.

What we look for in ecologically sustainable development are tolerances in connection with the environment. This often requires evaluating a set of conditions that are natural. We observe, assess and collect data that allows us to capture averages and extremes and how they impact lifecycles. This information can include isothermality, temperature and precipitation distributions. Species data will be used to determine environmental conditions and how a species can persist. And while our estimates cannot be considered absolute, they give us adequate localized information that can be effectively applied to an entire planet.

Once we have a set of effective conditions, the data can be used to build mathematical models of an environment’s tolerances. While there are many approaches to this, the end result will be a set of points in environmental space based on data culled from points in geographic space.

It is a complicated process, but an important one. I — and others like me — are designing algorithms to estimate tolerances and use these results to make geographic determinations of environmental variables. This gives us a greater idea of sustainability across geographic space.

Of course, the science behind ecological sustainable development cannot be fully introduced in the space allowed here. There are concepts and methodological issues that require extensive study. I myself have a Ph.D. in Ecosystem Dynamics. I have worked with the WHO, Parks and Wildlife, Land and Natural Resources services, as well as the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California San Diego. Through grants from the DOT, USGS and NSF, I was involved in the development of data and computational modeling infrastructures.

My contributions to the academic field have been recognized by the US Immigration Service as an Outstanding Researcher. I am the writer of several articles, including The Future is not Green, but Grey, Suing the Sceptics and the author of Niche Modeling: Predictions from Statistical Distributions. You can find my list of peer reviewed publications here.

While understanding ecological sustainability may not be for everyone, I do believe it is important that we all know how vital it is to the sustainability of our ecosystems and species.

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      The Bradfield Scheme, a proposed Australian water diversion scheme, is an inland irrigation project that was designed to irrigate and drought-proof much of the western Queensland interior, as well as large areas of South Australia.
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Making a fly-through video of parts of the Bradfield Scheme

This was my first go at finding a viable gravity-only route from a coastal river to the inland catchments. Gravity-feed is so important for keeping the cost of the water down. In this case, it flows into the Cooper Creek in the Galilee Basin that feeds into Lake Eyre from the Burdekin River at Hell’s Gate. This route goes via Lake Bradfield, currently a salt lake, which could serve as a temporary storage (about 14,000GL) and feed east to Adani Mine or other parts of the Bowen Basin, south to Lake Galilee and west to Muttaburra.

Soon I will get an actual route from Leon. I used to develop a kml file of the route line, opened the kml file in Google Earth Pro (free) and captured the video with Fraps (Pro).

Note that Leon’s design is an integrated pipeline and levy. The levy would pick up fairly substantial flows along the way from the Cape River and the Campaspe River as well before it goes around the Thalanga Mine or Campaspe to head north up to the Basalt River. It gets a bit rough from there to Hell’s Gates and would need careful route planning, but even if it stops short at the Basalt River, Leon estimates it could catch and deliver maybe 2,000 – 3,000 GL or so per year to Aramac & Adani within 12 months. It then can later be connected to Hell’s Gate and deliver an extra 8,000 GL or so, then with the Herbert and Tully rivers add in another 3,000 GL or so.

The agricultural production alone from the irrigation of 2,000 km2 of land around Aramac and Muttaburra could be about $2 billion in produce per year. This plan has the benefits of lower cost (~$8 billion), and staged implementation without requiring the building of Hell’s Gate Dam.

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