Irrigators are being encouraged to identify their future water demand to demonstrate the need for Paradise Dam to return to full capacity after safety repairs.
Natural Capital Economics director and economist Jim Binney is in town speaking with grower groups to understand future intentions for water use in the region.
“It's a really fundamental piece of work that actually goes into the Building Queensland process to inform government, or provide recommendations to the government, on the best way forward in terms of the different options that are being looked at,” Mr Binney said.
“The intention there is making sure that there's actually enough water to meet the long-term community needs.
“Our job is to try and work out what those needs are over the next 30 years.
“I think one of the really positive things out of this process for the Bundaberg Region is really demonstrating the importance of water to underpin the local economy.”
In his opinion, current water use data doesn’t fully represent the region’s future water demand and now it’s up to growers to verify this.
“For example, there are large areas of tree crops that don’t currently use the volume of water they will need when they reach full production,” he said.
“Quite rightly, most growers hadn't actually bought that additional water allocation because it's just the cost for a service they don't actually need at the moment, but they will do in the future.
“That basically means the future growth rate in water use is probably steeper and greater than we might have expected based on historical use.
“The data that's actually publicly available doesn't necessarily represent the state of play in the region and it certainly doesn't represent future intentions from growers.
“It's definitely in the best interest of growers to make sure that they're putting themselves forward and participating in this process.”
Mr Binney met Mayor Jack Dempsey this week and will hold workshops with grower groups over coming days.
While he can’t meet with all growers one-on-one he’s hoping every person on the Bundaberg Irrigation Scheme, or anyone with future water allocation needs, will come forward to take an online survey.
This feedback will provide industry insight which Mr Binney said he couldn’t get without input from locals.
“Only then can we actually get a good evidence base for demonstrating the volume of water that's actually required over the long term,” he said.
“If you're a farmer that's looking to get into irrigation in the benefited area jump on the engagement hub website.
“Register and we'd love you to actually participate in the survey, which will be released in the middle of September.”
Mr Binney said it was critically important to hear from growers or producers who were looking at expanding or changing their operations.
“You might be a cane farmer that's looking to get into tree crops,” he said.
“You might be a farmer that's on the edge of this benefited area but if there was a connection, you would actually start getting into irrigation.
“We want to hear from all of those sort of people as well.
“The more people that actually participate in the process, the better the data that actually goes into the analysis.”
The survey will ask growers to identify how much water they are using now and how much they think they might need in future.
Mr Binney said participants could be assured that all data collected would remain commercial in confidence.
“We'll only be reporting aggregate estimates,” he said.
Growers can register their interest on the engagement hub to be kept up to date and to be notified when the survey is available.
The process is expected to be finished towards the end of next year.
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