Monday, 18 July 2016

A reminder of why there has been no successful water raids on the Clarence River or its tributaries during the protracted water wars of the 21st Century

Northern New South Wales

Proposals similar to the Bradfield Scheme have also been suggested for the coastal rivers of New South Wales. A review of 22 coastal catchments found that only nine had western boundaries on the Great Dividing Range. Even though diverting some of these nine rivers was technically possible, the cost was too high to justify construction.

Later, proposals were raised for inland water diversion from the Clarence River. However, none of these proposals for the Clarence River were supported by cost– benefit analyses or environmental and social impact assessments. The Clarence River basin is unique in that it lies in a transition zone between temperate and tropical flora.

This makes it a region with high biodiversity values. A 1999 Healthy Rivers Commission report argued that any proposal to divert significant quantities of water out of this river basin would pose significant risk to the health of riverine ecosystems, and the activities and values those systems support.

In 2003, an analysis of 23 options to divert water inland from the Clarence River was undertaken by Hunter Water Australia. The study estimated that the final delivery cost to irrigators for diverted water would range from $163 to $2807 per ML (approximately 10 to 200 times greater than the existing irrigation costs).

Similarly, a desktop analysis of 40 options to capture and divert water from the Northern Rivers of NSW (including the Clarence River) to north east NSW and south east Queensland was undertaken by the Snowy Mountains Engineering Corporation Australia in 2007. The study estimated that the best value option was to deliver up to 100 000 ML of water per year from the Clarence River, at a delivery cost to users of $1730 per ML. The study also found that a more detailed environmental analysis would be required before any of the options could be progressed.

[Australian Government Dept. of the Environment, “Water for the Future - Moving water long distances: Grand schemes or pipe dreams?”, 2011]

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