May 27, 2004

Australian Officials Propose National Water Grid

A national water grid, similar to Australia's approach to shared electricity, is needed as parts of the country continue to face chronic water shortages, the Farmhand Foundation said today.

The water grid was recommended in the foundation's The Truth in Water Entitlements and Talking Water report, launched by Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson and foundation chairman Bob Mansfield in rural NSW today.

The foundation was set up to raise drought relief funds and find solution to problems of water management.

Its report also calls for a national water audit, the fixing and rebuilding of infrastructure, developing best practices in irrigation, and a plan for water recycling.

"We do get enough water falling on the continent of Australia – it just falls on the wrong places," Mansfield told ABC Radio. "If we can develop a goal to have a national water grid like we have an electricity grid – we'll be better off as a nation for it."

Asked if such action would require a plan with the magnitude of the Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme 50 years ago, Mansfield replied, "Well, I think it has to be for the nation to overcome the challenges that we're facing".

However, he said it was as yet unclear how a national water grid would be developed and funded.

"The cost factor hasn't been ascertained at this point in time and the way we cover that issue of the water grid is probably a 100 year plan," he said.

"But we've got a five point plan, some of which is immediately impactful, and the rest of it is a direction that we need to take as a nation, pay for it along the way, and to achieve it.

"The inevitability of having to face up to this reality is what we're trying to reinforce now."

He said such a plan would run into billions of dollars if it involved shifting water from one part of Australia to another.

Any issues such as the redirecting of river flows were complex and would require scientific input and what he termed a high priority environment.