A business case for Nullinga Dam in Far North Queensland is expected to be completed by July 2017.
The water storage – inland on the Walsh River, about 55 kilometres south-west of Cairns – is being assessed under the state government’s Building Queensland program.
A Department of Energy and Water Supply spokeswoman said the preliminary business case would seek to determine the best water supply solution based on the identified needs of the region.
“The scope of work for the first stage includes water demand assessments, consultation with key stakeholders, preliminary analysis of costs, risks and benefits of the options, and recommendations for the future of the project,” the spokeswoman said.
“Building Queensland is using a range of specialist expert advisors to undertake this analysis.
“The water demand assessment has engaged with the urban and agricultural sectors.
“Stakeholder consultation is ongoing through a stakeholder reference group comprising representatives from government and industry.
“Preliminary analysis of costs, risks and benefits is underway and will include consideration of prices for water from Nullinga Dam, which will depend on multiple factors.”
The business case is the first of a two-part assessment underway using a $5 million in funding committed by the Australian government’s National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.
Mareeba and District Fruit and Vegetable Growers Association chairman Joe Moro said there was no doubt more water would be needed in the future to meet demand from a growth in agriculture on the Atherton Tablelands.
“At some point probably 2020 or a little bit beyond, we will probably reach 100 per cent usage of Tinaroo water for irrigation usage,” Mr Moro said.
“Usage has been steadily increasing, and was at 84 pc in the last water year. It’s been increasing by two to three pc every year.”
Mr Moro said it was vital a business case be developed for proposed new dam sites such as Nullinga, so costs could be determined.
“There is a need for more water but the underlying factor is that the water has to be affordable,” Mr Moro said.