OPINION: Boyce on water security

Member for Callide Colin Boyce checking out the hydrogen project.

It’s true, we live in a sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains of rugged mountain ranges of droughts and flooding rains.

Right now, it’s raining and a welcome change with widespread falls throughout Queensland. But as I watch the floods go by it raises the question – why have we not built more dams; weirs and water infrastructure to take advantage of this wonderful rain event so we can plan and save for the future?

Water is the essential ingredient for prosperity and life. How can Queensland expand and give security to high value agriculture, industry business, and modern urban living without the provision for more water?

The Bjelke-Petersen era built 53 dams and weirs in Queensland in 19 years of government. In the past 20 years in Queensland we have only seen one major piece of water infrastructure completed – Paradise Dam on the Burnett River which is also (arguably) the greatest engineering debacle in Queensland’s history with the current Labor Government halving the capacity and putting at risk the future of a multibillion-dollar food growing industry in the Bundaberg area. A region that supplies 25% of Australia’s fresh food needs.

Recently we have seen the state government agree to begin construction of the Rookwood Weir at Rockhampton and Emu Swamp Dam at Stanthorpe and they are most welcome additions to water infrastructure – but why does the process take so long? Rookwood Weir was announced by the federal government in 2016. Yet the first concrete pour was only a few months ago – that’s 5 years after the first announcement.

Under the constitution, the state government is responsible for the building, planning, distribution and management of water.

With an ever-growing population and a growing need for water, where are the plans for more water infrastructure?

It takes approximately 10 litres of fresh water to make 1 kg of hydrogen. If we are serious about making a world class hydrogen industry in Gladstone that can create industrial quantities of hydrogen, and I am talking about millions of tonnes annually, where is the water going to come from? Where are the ideas and plans for the supply of more water?

To give a ballpark idea of the problem a future hydrogen industry faces, if the Nathan Gorge Dam at Taroom was built, (880 thousand megalitre storage capacity) approximately half of its water yield (it yields 66 thousand megalitres per year, half is 33 thousand megalitres) would be required to provide enough water for a 3 million tonne per annum hydrogen industry.

I believe the federal government needs the capacity to build water infrastructure in the national interest and bypass the state Labor government who have failed to invest adequately in water for our future.

-Colin Boyce MP,

Member for Callide