Category: Bradfield Scheme

Transcript of McCormack announcing a national water authority

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

Categories: Bradfield Scheme


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.

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The benefit of water conveyance across climate zones for cotton production

Pause to think about why farmers dam water. Usually, it is to store intermittent or seasonally variable rain until the optimal growing season of the crop when water becomes limiting.

When it is most needed, the rainfall deficit coincides with a deficit going into the dam. When raining and the dam is filling, the local need is low. At high rainfall events, storages are filled to overflowing when the local demand is lowest, so most of the water goes over the spillway.

Conveyance of water via long aqueducts provides water from sources that are far away. Either the source is less correlated with the sink, or the supply and demand are in sync, such that the water is most in demand when it is the most available, and least in demand when least available.

Long Conveyance of water in the Bradfield Scheme not just about the supply of water from less correlated regions. It is about transfer between climates with reliably different rainfall patterns. Large local dams need to store water over from the winter period in order to water during summer, losing considerable amounts due to evaporation. Conveyance of monsoonal water during the summer period would minimize the storage and associated evaporative losses.

In a summer crop such as cotton, water may be limited in the hot dry growing season. Therefore the transfer of water from a monsoon climate in Northern Queensland to climates with uniform rainfall such as southern Queensland and Northern NSW makes sense.

Annual average rainfall varies from more than 1800 mm along the coast with peak rainfall in summer (Jan to April). Southern districts receive average rain in the hot summer, making agriculture particularly reliant on rainfall during the winter growing season – unless water was conveyed from the reliable monsoon falls of the north.

As an example, cotton is a perennial plant grown commercially as an annual, summer crop. It prefers hot summers with low humidity and a maximum amount of sunshine. Cottonseed is planted in the spring as soon as the soil is warm enough to be sure of satisfactory seed germination and crop establishment. On irrigated cotton farms the initial irrigation (watering) is usually followed by a further four to five irrigations, at two to three-week intervals, from mid-December to late-February.

Thus the northern wet season is long enough for the fourth months of growth needed from germination to when the cotton bolls to ripen and split open. When mature, timing is critical in cotton. The controlled watering ensures dry conditions on the heavy soils that are needed for mechanical harvesting, placing into large modules, and transferring to cotton gins for processing and shipping to overseas markets.


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Why Water Resources Need Connection

Local water storage doesn’t last through Australian droughts.

The South Burnett is located on top of Australia’s Great Dividing Range just two hours drive north-west of Brisbane, Australia and directly west of the Sunshine Coast. The South Burnett is  Queensland’s largest wine region, home to the State’s biggest vineyards and more than 20 wineries and cellar doors. The South Burnett is also home to two of Queensland’s biggest inland waterways (Lake Boondooma and the Bjelke-Petersen Dam), the Jurassic-era Bunya Mountains and some of Australia’s prettiest agricultural country.

With the water level at Lake Barambah currently 8%, irrigation of these agricultural business has been severely restricted.

Lake Barambah has irrigation, camping and recreational facilities handled by Murgon Shire Council. Facilities for caravans, cabins, camping and day-trippers are extensive. Under normal conditions there are no boating restrictions, except near the dam wall. In 2006, drought conditions reduced dam levels to 5% of total capacity. With such low levels, visitors numbers dropped significantly and local councils were concerned about maintaining drinking water for local towns. With the water level at Lake Barambah currently 8%, recreational users and visitors must be aware of exposed and submerged hazards.

An integrated water scheme such as the new Bradfield Scheme would allow storages such as these to be refilled by the abundant flows from the recent coastal wet season that saw widespread above average rainfalls and flood from Cairns to Townsville.

Read the full-alert here:

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Sustainability branding of the Bradfield Scheme

Through control of the supply of water to certified producers including mines and farmers, the Bradfield Scheme can drive the environmental and humane animal husbandry outcomes that consumers seem to increasingly demand.

Sustainability branding is the process of creating, maintaining and adding value to the products of the scheme through certified environmental and social benefits. In contrast to existing green, organic brands which mainly focus on farming practices, the sustainability brand entails health and safety issues, conditions under which a particular product is produced, and adheres to the triple bottom line of ecological (environmental), social (equity), and financial (economic) sustainability.

Certification may require demonstration of such practices as Integrated Pest Management, free-range animal husbandry, environmental offset and reserves, indigenous employment to name a few. In this way, there will be the likelihood of identification and loyalty amongst consumers associated with social and environmental added value.

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Water facilitates new industries: Project Iron Boomerang

Steel is made from iron ore, coal, water, and other trace elements. Shipping both ore and coal to a third location is an inefficient use of the world’s biggest bulk ships that return empty half the distance. Project “Iron Boomerang” puts an end to the empty load phenomenon with a double east-west Australian rail line that will save billions per year. The average iron in ore is 60% the rest is dirt 40% – the empty return trip ship and train efficiency is therefore around 30%.

Gross water use in integrated steel plants ranges from 50,000 to 500,000 liters per ton of steel ingots, and so a reliable source of water is another requirement of efficient production. Value-added production is economically important for Australia and its major world trading partners. For the trading partners that participate in the production of steel, the industrialization of the inland facilitated by a Bradfield Scheme offers a sustainable and competitive means of reducing the cost per tonne of metals produced, while reducing global environmental impacts.

The purpose-built transcontinental railway line will link Australia’s two great ore bodies for steelmaking, iron ore from the west coast and metallurgical coal from the east coast with smelters at either end. A transcontinental railway will be dedicated to carrying resources efficiently from one side of the country to the other.

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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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Is the Bradfield Scheme Viable?

In assessing viability, the value of any project has two components – capex and opex. An operating expense or opex is an ongoing cost for running a project, a capital expenditure (capex), is the cost of developing the project.

CAPEX can be compared with similar project to determine if it provides value for money. For comparison, the Paradise Dam across the Burnett River with a 300,000-megalitre or 300GigaL capacity cost $240 million to build. A cost of $1000 per GL of water storage which is typical of large scale water storages.

The large Bradfield Scheme proposed by Leon Ashby would store 60,000 GigaL and is estimated to cost $52 billion including upgrades of existing dams, new dams, pipelines, tunnels and aqueducts. This $820 per GL of storage capacity – comparable to similar large storages.

The scheme put forward by Sir Leo Hielscher for an enhanced Hell’s Gate Dam with 120m headwall, augmented by tapping waters from the Tully, South Johnstone and Herbert rivers and a tunnel to the west is $15 billion. Hell’s Gate Dam alone could hold 40,000GL for a capex of $375 per GL. While this capex is considerably lower than Ashby’s scheme, the Ashby scheme includes infrastructure to Richmond and down into Muttaburra and many storages en route such as Lake Buchanan.

Thus other measures such as potential area under irrigation, and value of production also need to be compared. For the opex or operating expenditure, the most most vital being the annual offtake of water, and its cost to irrigators.

For comparison the MDB produces $22 billion of produce each year from around 10,000 GL of irrigation water. Leon estimates the annual potential is for a total of 21,000 GL of irrigation to be possible from the Eastern and Western Systems (8,000 GL each) and another 5,000 GL from the Burdekin Dam. Once developed, these three systems could increase National GDP by another 20 – 40 Billion dollars per year.

I don’t yet have the estimates for the Sir Leo Hielscher plan.

Leon estimates the cost of water for the Burdekin Dam enhancement with some delivery charges & pump costs of $12 per megalitre, the cost would be around $39.50 per ML. This compares to $50 per megalitre for water in the MDB system.

I expect the cost of water for the entirely gravity fed portions of the scheme would be considerably less – of the order of $10 per ML. The delivery of 20,000 GL at a cost of $200 million to produce (conservatively) $20 billion of produce.

Add in the cost of financing the capital works as 5% of $50 billion or $2,600 million per annum we are looking at around $3 billion in annual costs. If interest costs were borne entirely by the irrigator, the finance costs would boost water costs to $130 per ML. At a rate to support rapid development of end uses – the farmers would pay say $25 per ML – the annual return on the infrastructure expenditure would be $500 million or 0.5 billion. However, the figures for this project are similar to other large scale water infrastructure project. Clearly, suitable financing arrangements are crucial to their success.

Various plans have been put forward, such as development bonds, development banks, superannuation funds and so on, and clearly a lot of work would need to be done in this area in order for the project to be self-financing.

These rough figures of $3 billion annual expenditure for $20 billion are at peak development which may take 20 years. Increasing the costs of finance to 10% to cover the dip would be $5 billion which gives an opex over capex of 10. From a public project point of view, these figures need to be compared with alternatives such as road, rail and port construction.

It’s hard to imagine an alternative infrastructure with a more favourable opex/capex at the present time.

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Designing an aqueduct to carry flood flows

The flows in North Queensland Rivers can vary enormously, up to 1000GL per day on an annual average flow of a few GL per day. The design of an aqueduct to accommodate both regular flows and yet capture significant flood flows presents a challenge.

As the aqueduct constitutes the most costly component of the scheme, simplifications and cost reductions over 1000km or more would be significant. Above is my suggestion for a simple flood flow aqueduct that also accommodates regular flows.

The image shows the transverse cross-section of aqueduct consisting of the channel and levee, and a longitudinal cross-section shows the100km sections with a flat gradient and hydropower and roads in the gaps.

The levee is constructed with a simple cut and fill operation where soils are suitable, transferring the soil from the trench, which is the low flow channel, to the compacted levee bank. A height of about 6m should be sufficient, allowing a peak depth of 10m. The shapes of the channel and levee could be trapezoidal but are shown as triangles for ease.

The low flow cross-section would be around 25m2 and lines with high-density polyethylene liner (HDPE). The slope is very low in most parts, with an extent of 500 to 1000m on a 5m head. The cross-section of the flood flow would, therefore, be around 1250 to 2500m2.

By my calculations, a maximum flow rate of 1m/s or 3.6 km/hr (not too fast as the gradient is very low and avoids scouring) would convey around 2GL per day in the low flow channel and 110 to 220GL per day in the high flow channel. This is more than adequate to capture significant flood flows accounting for variable flow rates as well. The actual detailed design needs to be done to refine these ballpark specifications, including estimates of realistic losses.

An approach favored by Leo Ashby is for the levee to be constructed on the contour for 100km lengths, with each section joined by 10m falls. The levee would act as a combined storage weir while transferring water by hydraulic flow over long distances at gradients as low as 1:10,000.

The gaps between the section could be located at important infrastructure points like major roads, with appropriate low pressure hydropower stations sited on them. This would minimise the disruption of existing infrastructure while providing access to power lines along roads.

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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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