Month: April 2019
The 80-year-old Bradfield scheme is a proposed world-class inland irrigation project that was designed to irrigate and drought-proof much of the north and western Queensland interior. The Scheme required large pipes, tunnels, and dams from the upper reaches of the Tully, Herbert, and Burdekin rivers to feed the Thompson and Flinders rivers. Interest in the scheme has persisted in minor political parties, but studies have dismissed it as lacking in scientific justification, excessively expensive, and overly optimistic. Leon Ashby, with a history of broadacre irrigation and innovation, has solved the central problems in the original scheme and extended it to two larger schemes with much greater efficiencies and beneficial environmental impacts. Ashby’s plan is for an entire gravity fed system, obviating the need for pumping water, harvesting flood flows and providing many additional irrigation dams en route. This would be achieved by siting high in the catchment an innovative 2000km contiguous aqueduct that would move the water gently from the highest dams at 800m elevation, over and through the Great Dividing Range plateau to dams at around 200m elevation in the central west. The holding capacity is expected to be 60,000 Giga liter or three times the size of the Murray Darling Irrigation scheme. This would provide 30,000 GL per annum to irrigate approx 30,000 km2 of land, more than doubling the size of irrigated land in Australia. In addition, the scheme has the ability to generate GWs of power, control and reduce the flooding flow of coastal rivers, and may reduce coral bleaching, excess nutrients and silt to the Great Barrier Reef from coastal farming and development. Along with other innovations from new technology, this would enable the realisation of the original Bradfield Scheme of opening up large swathes of fertile soil in central and western Queensland for fodder crops, cotton, and horticultural enterprises of all types, providing an estimated additional $50 billion dollars per annum to the Australian economy, along with jobs, revitalisation of rural communities, elimination of the droughts and flooding rains and creation of a world-class irrigation scheme for rural Queensland.
18 I will open up rivers for them on the high plateaus.Isaiah 41
I will give them fountains of water in the valleys.
I will fill the desert with pools of water.
Rivers fed by springs will flow across the parched ground.
19 I will plant trees in the barren desert—
cedar, acacia, myrtle, olive, cypress, fir, and pine.
20 I am doing this so all who see this miracle
will understand what it means—
that it is the LORD who has done this,
the Holy One of Israel who created it.
18 But forget all that—Isaiah 43
it is nothing compared to what I am going to do.
19 For I am about to do something new.
See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?
I will make a pathway through the wilderness.
I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.
20 The wild animals in the fields will thank me,
the jackals and owls, too,
for giving them water in the desert.
Yes, I will make rivers in the dry wasteland
so my chosen people can be refreshed.
The necessity for irrigation schemes. Comparison of size of global schemes. Australia is 23rd in world rank. Why so far behind? Examples of world irrigation projects. Existing Australian irrigation projects. Current Queensland projects, existing and planned – pathetic.
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.
In Queensland, CSIRO have identified the Mitchell catchment (yellow area above) as the greatest potential to increase greenfield development opportunities in Northern Australia, and the coastal regions of the Fitzroy and Burdekin River catchments for enhancements. However, developments in these would do nothing for the water poor, rich soil areas of Clermont, Richmond, Longreach, Barcaldine, Muttaburra that already have established agricultural infrastructure that could be expanded, established human settlements (and importantly voters), and further west potentially channel water into the Murray Darling Basin.
The CSIRO studies have not, so far, evaluated the feasibility of aqueducts between catchments. Therefore, the locations they identify rely on the coincidence of good soils, dam locations and rainfall. They do not consider connected water networks with harvesting levees and high catchment dams, or aqueducts that could transfer water between high rainfall poor soil, to low rainfall good soil locations. Not considered, also, are potential higher returns from enhanced town water supplies.
The problem – very few people live in the Mitchell catchment or want to go there (see map). I am concerned the CSIRO are going down the wrong path again, potentially creating another massive ‘white elephant’ like the Ord River Irrigation Scheme that may take 100’s of years to reach the projected potential. A system of gravity-fed aqueducts from the high rainfall northern rivers of Tully and the Walsh Rivers into the existing populated outback areas with irrigation potential – aka the new Bradfield Scheme – needs to be included in the CSIRO feasibility studies.
CSIRO have investigated the potential of northern Australia’s water resources to support increased regional development as part of our engagement in delivery of the Australian Government’s White Paper on Developing Northern Australia, for which one of the key initiatives is the development of northern Australia’s water resources. They have delivered water resource assessments for three priority regions in northern Australia for the Australian Government after working with northern jurisdictions, research partners and communities over 2.5 years. An orphaned dam in the Mitchell catchment is all we get? Disappointing.
Let’s look at similar water storage and distribution systems to the New Bradfield Scheme, in California.
California is 400 km wide and 1200 km long. It has a land area of 423,970 km2 of which 36,421 km2 is irrigated. Agricultural production is $47 billion per year, a large proportion of which is irrigated or irrigation related.
California is largely desert and its population centres and agriculture watered by a number of long aqueducts exceeding 500 km in length.
For example, the California State Water Project, commonly known as the SWP, collects water from rivers in Northern California and redistributes it to the water-scarce but populous south through a 650 km length aqueduct, with pumping stations and power plants. About 70% of the water provided by the project is used for urban areas and industry in Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area, and 30% is used for irrigation in the Central Valley.
By comparison, Northern Queensland has a land area of approximately 500,000 km². An extended Bradfield Scheme may provide irrigation for 30,000 km2 of land. This would be achieved by a system of aqueducts and dams, of similar length to similar to those in California. In return, we would expect agricultural production of $50 billion per year, similar to California.
In some ways Queensland is more suited than California, as due to good luck or blessing, the new Bradfield Scheme may entirely gravity fed through tunnels and aqueducts. The cost of water may therefore be considerably less than the cost of water in the SWP in California.
The construction of the aqueducts in the new Bradfield Scheme could be staged, developing first those areas that are closer to population centres and prepared for irrigation, and releasing the excess water into parched river systems. However, the irrigation of large areas black soil plains in the central state would open up the largest areas to new agriculture.
The new Bradfield Scheme could provide 30 thousand km2 of new irrigated land in inland Queensland, more than doubling the land under irrigation, and catapulting Australia from 23rd place by irrigated land area (between Peru and Japan) to 8th place (between Brazil and Thailand).
The Deputy Prime Minister, Michael McCormack speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra announcing, if re-elected, the LNP government would introduce a new statutory authority called the National Water Grid tasked to managed water infrastructure around Australia (with Bradfield Schemes as a first order of business).
We need to better store, better harvest, and better use water— our most valuable asset.
Our country community is some of the most inventive minds, finest engineers, smartest entrepreneurs, willing people prepared to have a go try things.
Let us have a vision. Show some courage of the scale of the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area and the Snowy Scheme to again show the world what a mighty nation of thinkers and builders we are.
That’s why today I’m proud to announce that the Liberals and Nationals in government will establish a National Water Grid.
The National Water Grid will be a statutory authority responsible for the strategic planning and project management for water infrastructure right across the Nation.
The National Water Grid will bring together the world’s best scientists to take the politics out of the way water is captured and stored in Australia.
No longer will states be able to hide behind political games as to why they will or won’t allocate water to a particular valley or region.
No longer will future federal governments be able to strip funding from vital water infrastructure projects because they believe they don’t stack up purely based on politics.
No longer will our communities’ ability to unlock their own potential merely exist in and around election cycles.
It’s been too long since we built a dam. You all know that. We can’t even raise a dam wall. Enough is enough.
This is not about pitting states against states, catchments against catchments, communities against communities.
This is about the Commonwealth providing real leadership and real vision.
Right across the country, we are building the water infrastructure our communities expect and deserve and the National Water Grid will be responsible for developing the water grid and to identify the missing links.
I can also announce one of the National Water Grids first orders of business will be able to use the best available science to examine how large scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost-effective water to farmers and regional communities.
A re-elected Liberal and Nationals government will also seek agreement for States and Territories to co-invest to make this a truly a national initiative based on science, not politics.
And we are going to put a down payment of 100 million dollars for projects supporting states to better understand their own water resources and kick start investigation to water diversion projects.McCormack announces a national water authority
How do gravity fed systems work? Examples of Gravity fed systems. Yeomans Keyline system. Permaculture. Colorado River. Climate variability, rainfall sources monsoon in northern Queensland, flood flows vs regular flows, soil types suitable for irrigation, water tables. Economics of pumping and gravity fed methods. Crop selection and processing facilities. Market proximity.