Water security funding a positive step but questions remain
THE future might be looking brighter for local farmers, with the first meaningful step taken towards ensuring water security in the Lockyer Valley and Somerset regions.
The State Government has announced a $1.4 million grant for a water security business case, and Hauser Farms owner and manager Kerry Hauser said it's been a long time coming.
"We've been waiting for years for something like this. As long it gets us there, it'll be great,” Mr Hauser said.
He said while it was just the first step of many, he hoped the process would now gather steam and move forward quickly.
"I certainly hope it will snowball and get some momentum and deliver some sort of outcome that will give us water security for the future.”
The announcement was timely given the drought crisis that the region, along with much of Queensland, is currently facing.
Water sources are critically low, with Lake Clarendon sitting at just 0.5 per cent capacity while Lake Dyer near Laidley is not much better at 3.8 per cent.
Mr Hauser said while the pipeline wouldn't be the magic bullet that saved farmers this time, it was vital for future droughts.
"It will get us into a lot better situation coming into the next drought - it's not going to be here to save us this time,” he said.
"And there's plenty of opportunities to grow more for the valley so it's not just to drought-proof us, it's to give us water for the future and for growth.”
Despite the positive step, questions still remain on how the project will operate and particularly the cost of any water provided.
"I do have some concerns over the cost of it - it's hard to put a price on it until we know how it's going to be delivered, whether it's under pressure, what the reliability is and what quality it is,” Mr Hauser said.
"I would hope that this round, because you've got so many people involved with it and actual users of the water - it can be targeted to what we actually need.”
He also implored businesses in the region who might not think they have a vested interest to get involved with the process.
"There are a lot of local businesses that don't really know what's going on here, and a lack of water (means) they'll have to scale down, and if there's more water well it lets their business grow with certainty as well,” Mr Hauser said.
"I'd like all the local businesses to be more aware of what's happening.
"Some of them really realise the impacts of what farmers can do for their business - others don't.”
Water security will benefit more than just farmers
The hard work starts now according to Lockyer Valley and Somerset Water Collaborative, after last week's grant announcement.
The Collaborative's Chair Stephen Robertson said work on the business case, made possible by the Queensland Government's funding, would start as soon as possible but it was vital for water users to get involved.
"It's critical that they [farmers] are involved after all they're the ones that will benefit from any new water supply and it's the farmers themselves that know, more than anyone else, the price they're prepared to pay for water and how much it is that they need,” Mr Robertson said.
"That's essential information if we are to prove this business case.”
Lockyer Valley Regional Council Mayor Tanya Milligan said the water pipeline project would benefit more than just farmers in the region.
"It's a real win-win - not just for farmers but for the likes of mums and dads, it's about tourism, it's about business and it's about really just saying we're open for business... and there's opportunity and potential here,” Cr Milligan said.
She added while the pipeline wouldn't be the fix for the region's current drought crisis, now was the time to be planning for the next drought and ensuring adequate water supplies are available.
"We've had droughts before - I think we need to be stepping up and making some decisions now because when it does rain, and it will eventually rain, there will come a time when our community will be in the same position again,” she said.
"So it really is important for us to be do that planning, and I really commending the state government for recognising that.”