The State Government will consider an alternative water scheme to the controversial Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme if it gains community support, drought-proofs the region and has less environmental impact, according to the West Australian Water Users Coalition.
After months of meeting with various political stakeholders, the coalition has confirmed the government is committed to spending the $40 million of federal funding and $20 million of state funds in the South West region – but is open to another water catchment model.
“The new scheme has been designed to catch unused allocated A-class water in the lower reaches of a catchment basin and return it to the upper areas, where it can be distributed to farmers as needed,” coalition vice chair John Kilrain said. “This ensures water is not taken from the Donnelly River.
“This model better utilises currently unused allocated A-class water without having any impact on any existing farming operations and doesn’t need the addition of any new water from rivers or other tributaries.
“It also allows for some further expansion but has factored in a volume of water that is for drought-proofing as many licensed farms as possible.
“Water trading will be limited to agreements between a cooperative and landowners and, at the end of the allocation, the ownership will go back to the cooperative.”
Mr Kilrain said the alternative water scheme had been well-received by Agriculture and Food Minister Alannah MacTiernan and a memorandum of understanding had now been signed.
“This will allow for a feasibility study to begin so the alternative scheme can be considered,” he said.
“We have also requested a meeting with the Water Minister Dave Kelly to discuss our concerns with the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, as well as a hearing at the Legislative Council inquiry into Southern Forest Irrigation Scheme.
“A community forum will be held in the coming months to further explain the new water scheme and seek input.”
John KilrainP: 0417 909 341