Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Gulf Run-Off Could Irrigate All Australia

Newspaper article The Observer (Gladstone, Australia)

Gulf Run-Off Could Irrigate All Australia

Article excerpt

VICTORIAN Rex McIntosh recently sailed around the top of Australia. And he saw floodwaters washing away to the ocean. He believes an economic salvation could be found for Queensland if that water was captured and used productively.

We need to transfer the massive amounts of rainwater that pelt the Gulf of Carpentaria basin to the southern states of Australia.

The Gulf run-off is about 62,000 GL per year. That's the largest catchment run-off in Australia. Except for some small dams new Mt Isa, all this water currently wastes into the ocean and represents a huge financial loss to the driest continent on earth.

About half the run-off would be lost to seepage and evaporation, but the other half could be captured and used to irrigate food crops. But there is not sufficient flat arable land in the Gulf to utilise that volume of water for irrigation.

As well, the Gulf climate is too tropical to grow most food crops. Tropical farming ventures have been tried before, but pests and plant disease have overwhelmed those ventures.

And it's not an easy life trying to work farms up there - Burketown cemetery is full of graves of hopeful Victorian farmers who perished last century.

If we dammed, there would be destruction of some environmental features. However, on the positive side, the huge amounts of freshwater would be a benefit to human life, wildlife, birdlife, and to fish and crayfish.

If we dammed the 20 major Gulf Rivers we could store about 30,000GL of water. Dams are necessary because the catchment flow is seasonal and monsoonal. Some storage may be possible by reclaiming part of the Gulf near Normanton.

We would then release the stored water (generating hydroelectric power), which would run down each water course until collected by a coastal canal.

This canal design is quite challenging because it must be near the coastline to control the catchment water, but not so close as to ever get contaminated by sea water surges such as cyclone may cause. …

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