Comparable water schemes worldwide – California

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.

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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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ebook: The New Bradfield Scheme

COMING SOON: 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 entirely gravity fed system, obviated 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 GigaL 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.

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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: https://bit.ly/2DdOiN0

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Fraser Anning & Leon Ashby`s trip around North Qld to explain water diversion options 4th – 9th March

Senator Fraser Anning Public Meetings

Fraser Anning and Leon Ashby will be flying around and showing contour maps of 3 proposed water diversion schemes

1 – Bradfield (Hells Gate to Muttaburra & Aramac) via Pentland

2 – Walsh, Tate, Einasleigh, Gilbert  Rivers diverted to Richmond

3 – Extension of Burdekin Dam (5 x current volume)

It will be the first explanation of how 3 times the amount of water that is used for irrigation in the Murray Darling System could be diverted and or stored in North Qld.

The MDB system has 10,000 GL irrigation which produces $22 billion per year.

North Qld could look to have 30,000 GL  irrigate approx 3,000,000 Ha of land extra.

We believe in excess of $50 Billion could be generated each year from these diversion systems

There are numerous dam sites and places where irrigation farms can be set up.

We look forward to hearing what locals in each area would like to see built and where they believe it can be the best benefit.

Meeting dates

Mon 4th March –

Lake Dunn 1:15 pm &

Charters Towers RSL 7 pm

Wed 6th March

Federal hotel, Richmond 6 pm

7th March

North Gregory Hotel, Winton 9.30 am,

Exchange hotel, Muttaburra  1pm,

Barcoo hotel, Blackall 7 pm

8th March

Corones hotel, Charleville 9.30 am, 

Cobb & Co Hotel,  St George 1.30 pm,

Club hotel, Roma 6 pm

9th March

Club Hotel, Chinchilla 9.30 am,

Commercial Hotel, Kingaroy 1 pm

Fraser & Fiona Anning & Leon Ashby look forward to meeting you there.

 Ph 0435 423 636 for details 

Leon Ashby| Personal Assistant Canberra

Senator Fraser Anning for Queensland

Canberra Office

S 1 32 Parliament House Canberra 2600

Phone (02) 6277 3671 M: 0435423636

Leon.N.Ashby@aph.gov.au

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Categories: Bradfield Scheme