Acting Prime Minister Michael McCormack says building dams will be key to improving Australia’s water security as the nation deals with one of the “worst droughts in history”.
Plans by the new National Water Grid Authority about its assessment of possible new water projects will be announced in coming weeks, Mr McCormack said.
He said he wants to see new dams built and other water infrastructure projects across northern Australia as outlined in the plan unveiled the government science agency the CSIRO nearly 18 months ago.
However, the relevant state and territory governments had to support it first, which was yet to happen.
“In the context of the drought what people want to see is us build dams and we’re getting on and we’re doing that,” he told reporters.
“It has been way too long in this country since we’ve built a dam.
“We want to make sure if it stacks up, if the scientists say yes, if local stakeholders say yes and if they’re willing to back themselves as well, the federal government will say yes.
“Whether that’s the Northern Territory or anywhere else, this drought and the prolonged dry spell has told us again that we need to build water storage infrastructure to protect our farmland and our agriculture for times when it will be dry again.”
He was speaking in Darwin, which the CSIRO report found could safeguard its future water supply and support 8500ha of irrigated agriculture by damming the Adelaide River to the south, in line with the grand vision of northern Australia as a food bowl.
New dams would help grow Australia’s $60 billion agriculture industry into a $100 billion industry by 2030, he said.
The federal government has committed $1.3 billion to a National Water Infrastructure Development Fund to pay for the projects the National Water Grid Authority develops, which Mr McCormack said would be topped up more.
The federal and Queensland governments agreed last month to the 10.5 megalitre, $84 million Emu Swamp Dam on the Severn River near Stanthorpe, in the Granite Belt.
Darwin’s wet season last year was the hottest on record and driest since 1992. The situation is dire in eastern parts of Australia, which have been crippled by drought.