Month: November 2018

Preliminary estimates of the cost of stages and returns of the New Bradfield Scheme

The comparative internal rate of return for the scheme including the supply of North Queensland flood water to the Murray -Darling Basin is between 5-10%, based on capital expenditure of $12.75 billion dollars, and annual agricultural revenue between $2 and $4 billion. Revenue from the supply of water for mines and towns and hydropower generation is not included.

The stages of the plan are shown as stage 1 (red), 2 (orange), 3 (yellow) and 4 (green). The figures below are very approximate and may change over time as estimates become more precise (Note 1). The cost of the main stages are as follows (Note 2):

  1. Burdekin River Irrigation Area Mt Foxton to the Flinders Hwy. This stage captures flood flows and provides gravity-feed irrigation to 50,000ha north of Charters Towers.
    125km of 11m aqueduct ($1.25B), 75m weir ($0.5B) TOTAL $1.75B (Note 3)
  2. Lake Galilee Basin Supply Flinders Hwy to Lake Galilee. This stage transfers flood flows to Lake Galilee Storage on the Great Dividing Range and supplies the Galilee pipeline to 5 mines in the Galilee Basin.
    250km of 11m aqueduct ($2.5B), 20m storage ($0.5B) TOTAL $3B,
  3. Aramac/Muttaburra/Longreach Irrigation Area. Lake Galilee to Longreach. This stage is one arm of western Mitchell Grass Downs distributor providing 50,000ha of new gravity-fed irrigation area. 200km of 5m HDPE lined aqueduct and local storage ($2B)
  4. Murray Darling Basin. Lake Galilee to St George. This stage conveys water from the Lake Galilee Storage to the cotton growing regions around St George. 600km of 5m HDPE lined aqueduct and short pumped pipeline ($6B)

These first four stages could provide the water for the three new irrigation areas of approximately 50,000ha each – 150,000ha and five new coal mines in the Galilee Basin. This would require 1500GL of water pa based on efficiencies of 10ML per hectare of the irrigated crop, plus an additional 500GL for mine and other usage, losses, and environmental flows. Based on stream monitoring records a weir at the Mt Foxton site could provide in excess of 2000GL per annum, enough for the scheme and additional regular stream flow (Note 4).

With an expected return on the crops of between $6,000 and $25,000 per ha, this would produce a total output of between $1B and $4B per annum. As the water is gravity fed the operational costs are very low (Note 5). At a water cost of $50ML, the water purchases would be $7.5M pa. The following is based on economic modeling done for the Burdekin River Irrigation Scheme scaled up x3.


  • $12.75 billion dollars.
  • $8.1 billion contributions to GRP
  • $2.4 billion in household income
  • 25,000 FTE jobs


  • $1-5 billion in total output
  • $2.4 billion in contributions to GRP
  • $0.75 billion in household income
  • 15,000 FTE jobs

IRR between 5% and 10%


  1. Each stage produces additional revenue so that the costs of the scheme are not entirely front-loaded but could potentially be progressed in a self-funded manner.
  2. Cost of the aqueduct is assumed at $1million per km. Costs for dams are guesses only. Resumption costs included.
  3. This is half the estimate for the similar Upper Burdekin River Irrigation Scheme proposed by SMEC due to the absence of hydropower, lower weir, and relocation of road infrastructure on Gregory Development Road (-$0.69B). The water would be gravity-fed from the aqueduct delivering water at a considerably lower cost.
  4. Additional stages of the scheme could supply an additional 2000GL of water from the Herbert and Tully Rivers into the Mt Foxton weir.
  5. Expected revenue for the generation of hydropower, mine, and town water usage and forestry will be calculated in a later post.

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Categories: Book Bradfield Scheme

Adani Mine Could Help Fund the Lake Buchanan Storage and Aqueduct

It’s so much fun thinking about the New Bradfield Scheme, as it raises as many solutions as it does problems. Water, for a drought-prone nation like ours, is a precious resource. The Adani Coal Mine between Clermont and Charters Towers has been the subject of numerous water-based objections by the Greens, for example:

The mines current water licence allows the mining giant unlimited access to groundwater for 60 years.

One of the world’s last unspoiled desert oases at Doongmabulla Springs could permanently dry up under Adani’s plan to use billions of litres of groundwater.

A plan to use another 10 GigaL per year of water for its mine out of the Suttor River through a new, 61km pipeline in addition to their current water licence.

Less that 60km away lies a component of the New Bradfield Scheme, the Lake Buchanan salt lake (see image), with the potential for 14,440 GL of storage. The idea is that Lake Buchanan storage (once linked up the the infeed from the Hell’s Gate Dam flood flows, which in turn obtains a continuous infeed from the Tully River) could provide Adani Mine with the water it needs for the same price without compromising natural surface flows. Gravity feed is possible as Lake Buchanan elevation is at 300m and Adani mine is 240m. This is a win-win.

The dam and aqueduct developed by Adani could in turn be extended further into the Galilee Coal Basin to supply new mines such as the Hancock PL mine at Alpha.

It remains to be determined if the aqueduct could be extended via gravity feed to existing mines in the Bowen Basin in the east due to elevation limitations, much of which is around 300m. Nevertheless, the New Bradfield Scheme could potentially find customers in new and existing coal mines, who would help to finance the capital costs of development while subsidising the agricultural users en route, and protecting the natural surface and ground water.

At the end of the mines’ life, Australia would have a permanent water infrastructure based around a renewable resource, water, in exchange for the extraction of the limited resource, coal.

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Categories: Book Bradfield Scheme