Article by: Hari Yellina
Millions will be spent on bettering the nation’s water management, while billions will be invested on storing it. Acting on the recommendations of many reviews, the federal government announced several initiatives to promote transparency and trust in the Murray-Darling Basin system. The reforms will be aided by a flood of funds for water infrastructure, with over $7 billion spent on dams. Over the next two years, the basin’s Inspector-General will receive $3.2 million for a network of compliance field officers. The officers will be the “critical link between compliance actions and on-the-ground eyes and ears,” according to Water Minister Keith Pitt.
A further $2.1 million will be spent on “reasonable state-supported” water market reforms, as suggested by the ACCC, in order to strengthen the market’s integrity and public trust. A $2.6 million independent panel of experts will look into how the southern basin rivers’ operation may be improved to promote water security for all users. “A 12-month independent, systematic, technical examination of infrastructure in the southern Murray-Darling Basin to ensure we’re in a good position to make future infrastructure decisions to increase water security,” Mr Pitt said. The Coalition poured billions of dollars into water infrastructure around the country, the majority of which was announced before the budget, with Queensland receiving the most.
With $5.4 billion committed pending a business case, the government’s water infrastructure includes the Hells Gate Dam in Far North Queensland. The government also pledged $483 million to Urannah Dam, $600 million to Paradise Dam, and $126.5 million to Emu Swamp’s 12-gigalitre dam. In NSW, the Dungowan Dam and pipeline near Tamworth received an additional $433 million, while the Hume Dam will be renewed with $6.7 million over the next six years. In addition, the government has set aside $27.5 million to help construct the business cases for 13 water infrastructure projects across the country. More than $20 million will be spent on water infrastructure in Tasmania, and $300 million will be spent on the Manton Dam in Darwin.
Mr Pitt pledged $97 million to the Murray-Darling Basin’s Health Rivers, Healthy Communities programme, with awards ranging from $100,000 to $5 million available. Community groups, the irrigation industry, basin stakeholders, and state governments will be able to use the funds to fund projects that strengthen regional communities, increase river health, and improve environmental results through targeted infrastructure investment.