Water infrastructure – feasibility studies

National Water Infrastructure Development Fund

There are a number of assessments completed and currently underway that were initiated under the Australian Government's National Water Infrastructure Development Fund (NWIDF).

NWIDF is an initiative of the Australian Government, delivered through the states and territories.

Its purpose is to accelerate the assessment of water infrastructure proposals which could stimulate regional economic activity and development.

A number of Queensland applications were successful in obtaining funding to undertake feasibility studies alongside assessments identified by the Australian Government.

The Queensland Government has been working with the proponents to help them deliver their studies.

The studies are supported by funding from the NWIDF, an initiative of the Agricultural competitiveness white paper and Our north, our future: white paper on developing Northern Australia.

National Water Grid Fund

In 2020, the Australian Government remodelled and renamed its water infrastructure funding programme to create the National Water Grid Fund.

While assessments that commenced under the previous NWIDF will continue under that programme name, new assessments are being funded under the National Water Grid Fund.

Progress report

We encourage you to read the feasibility studies in their entirety to gain an understanding of the anticipated costs, benefits and challenges associated with the proposals.

Note: The publication of these reports does not represent an endorsement of the proposals by the Queensland Government.

What's next?

Proponents and interested parties can use the feasibility studies to determine:

  • the viability of the proposals
  • whether further investigations are required
  • whether it is appropriate to progress them at this time.

The information will assist our consideration of potential priority water needs and options across Queensland for new bulk water supply infrastructure and will be used to update the Queensland bulk water opportunities statement. For projects that are located in areas that are the subject of a Regional Water Assessment, the information developed will also inform the respective assessment and its recommendations.

Completed feasibility studies – final reports

Undertaken by SunWater Limited.

The study investigated the upgrade of the existing Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme, including channels and pipelines to increase distribution from Paradise Dam.

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Undertaken by the Department of State Development, Manufacturing, Infrastructure and Planning (DSDMIP).

This study is a preliminary investigation into raising the dam wall, looking at estimated demand for new water entitlements in the region and potential environmental impacts.

Since this study was completed, discussions between SunWater and potential water customers have indicated the potential for greater water demand in the short to medium term than noted in the study.

As a result, SunWater is now preparing a preliminary business case to ensure the right strategy is in place for the long-term water needs of the region.

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Undertaken by SunWater Limited.

To facilitate the use of available water allocations in the Burdekin Haughton Water Supply Scheme, this study investigated distribution channel limitations and augmentations.

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Undertaken by the Isaac Regional Council.

The study examines ways to achieve reliable long-term performance of the council's water supply, treatment, storage and distribution infrastructure for the next 20 years.

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Undertaken by Coalstoun Lake Water Pty Ltd (CLW).

The study looks into water supply option for the Coalstoun Lakes area, including a possible pipeline connecting Paradise Dam to Coalstoun Lakes and Biggenden looks at opportunities for Coalstoun Lakes.

This is to allow Coalstoun Lakes to capitalise on its abundance of high-quality soils suitable for irrigated agriculture and transform Coalstoun Lakes into one of Queensland’s most productive agricultural hubs. There are multiple assessments ongoing in the wider Burnett region that potentially intersect with this project, primarily the Queensland Government’s Bundaberg and Burnett Regional Water Assessment.

This detailed business case serves to inform the analysis of both water demands and supply options included within that Regional Water Assessment.

The project closely intersects with the Paradise Dam Improvement Project (that is currently being progressed), which means that for now and in the long-term, there are sufficient water allocations to support growth in the Coalstoun Lakes area (this project) and the broader Bundaberg region.

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Undertaken by the Stanthorpe and Granite Belt Chamber of Commerce.

The study has developed a detailed business case for the proposed Emu Swamp Dam and associated water distribution scheme – referring to the whole development as the Granite Belt irrigation project.

A formal Queensland Government addendum has been included at the start of the detailed business case, outlining a number of matters that need to be considered and appropriately addressed before the project can progress.

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Undertaken by Isis Central Sugar Mill.

This study looks at opportunities to enhance sugarcane supply to the mill by developing new sugarcane lands and infrastructure in the Gayndah region.

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Undertaken by Townsville Enterprise Limited (TEL).

The study into the proposed Hells Gates Dam and associated infrastructure requires a significant amount of further assessment to establish the financial viability and economic benefits associated with the proposal.

The feasibility study indicated this project would be challenging, with the main risks being:

  • costs of water likely to restrict the viable cropping opportunities
  • absence of a water allocation or allowance under the Water Plan
  • capacity of markets to absorb significant additional horticultural production.

Because of this and other factors outlined in the report, this proposal needs to be further considered along with:

  • other competing interests and development options for water resources in the area
  • impacts to existing users and the environment.

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TEL is progressing the Hells Gates Dam and Big Rocks Weir project to detailed business case and environmental assessment stage. As an early deliverable of the assessment, TEL has completed a detailed business case for Big Rocks Weir and Hells Gates Dam, with both being treated as standalone projects.

The Big Rocks Weir business case was completed with assistance from GHD and KPMG.

The Hells Gates Dam business case was completed with assistance from SMEC.

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Access the Hells Gates Dam detailed business case:

Read more about Big Rocks Weir:

Undertaken by the Hughenden Irrigation Project Corporation Pty Ltd (HIPCo) with funding from the Australian Government’s National Water Infrastructure Development Fund.

The project is located 45km west of Hughenden in northern Queensland and proposes to harvest water from the Flinders River to supply to new irrigated agriculture.

The proposal was the subject of a preliminary business case, developed by the HIPCo and released in February 2020. The preliminary business case assessed multiple water supply options and recommended that more detailed assessment should be undertaken to identify a preferred option.

The subsequent detailed business case was completed in May 2022 and identifies the proponent’s preferred option to be an off‑stream storage adjacent to the Flinders River, that can capture flood flows for distribution to a new irrigation development.

Although the detailed business case has been completed, there are several matters that need to be progressed to understand the proposal's viability more fully. The formal statement in the detailed business case by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water details these matters and should be read before considering the findings and recommendations in the detailed business case.

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Undertaken by Cape York Sustainable Futures and Regional Development Australia – Far North Queensland and Torres Strait.

The strategic business case assesses the expansion of the Lakeland Irrigation Area and considers soil suitability, water availability, storage and distribution design, analysis of economic and financial aspects and production of a business case.

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Undertaken by the Lockyer Valley Regional Council.

The study reviewed and short-listed water supply options for agriculture in the Lockyer Valley based on assessment and comparison of sustainability, yield and the levelised cost to supply water.

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Undertaken by North Burnett Regional Council and South Burnett Regional Council.

The study examined a range of water supply and security options in the North and South Burnett regions to underpin an expansion of irrigated agriculture, new jobs and economic growth.

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Undertaken by Mount Isa Townsville Economic Zone Inc. (MITEZ)

This preliminary business case assessed the estimated demand for new water entitlements in the area around Cloncurry and identified the proposed Cave Hill Dam as the preferred infrastructure.

The study indicated that the costs associated with the proposed development were likely to outweigh the benefits at this time.

MITEZ is preparing a detailed business case with the remaining NWIDF funds to assess the potential costs and benefits in more detail.

It will also undertake activities that can be used in the future if a change in circumstances makes the proposal viable.

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MITEZ has also prepared a detailed business case with the remaining NWIDF funds to assess the potential costs and benefits in more detail. This report identifies activities that can be used in the future if a change in circumstances makes the proposal viable.

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Undertaken by Building Queensland on behalf of the Queensland Government, the study has developed both a preliminary business case and a detailed business case for a proposed dam on the Walsh River near Mareeba.

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Access the detailed business case on Building Queensland’s website:

Undertaken by Queensland Farmers' Federation (QFF) on behalf of an unofficial consortium including QFF, Cotton Australia, AgForce, Lockyer Valley Regional Council, Toowoomba and Surat Basin Enterprise, and others.

The preliminary business case explores supplying recycled water (of varying quality) to the Darling Downs and Lockyer Valley for agriculture.

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Undertaken by the Tablelands Regional Council.

The study has developed a preliminary business case that examines the viability of multipurpose water use options as a vehicle to drive regional economic growth and achieve industry development and community benefit.

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Undertaken initially by Bowen Collinsville Enterprise Limited with the later and current stage being delivered by Bowen River Utilities.

The proposed Urannah Dam, on the Broken River near Collinsville, together with an associated water distribution network was the subject of a preliminary business case completed in 2019. Following the assessment of a range of technical, environmental and hydrological factors, as well as financial and economic modelling, Bowen Collinsville Enterprise has identified 2 options for further assessment.

The assessment of the proposal is progressing through the development of a detailed business case and Environmental Impact Statement lead by Bowen River Utilities.

The detailed business case for the proposal was completed in June 2021. It identifies potential water demand from the mining sector in the Bowen Basin and from a new irrigation area which could be established near Collinsville.

While the detailed business case has been completed, there are several matters that need to be progressed to understand the proposals viability and credentials. Once the Environmental Impact Statement and necessary further detailed technical assessments have been concluded, the detailed business case will be subject to review and updated to include outcomes from these important activities.

Please read the statement by the Department of Regional Development, Manufacturing and Water at the beginning of the report before considering the findings and recommendations of the study.

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Completed science projects

Projects completed under the National Water Grid Science Program.

The project uses a Multi Criteria Analysis (MCA) approach to provide a synthesis of information from all previous studies to identify areas in the Mitchell, Flinders and Gilbert catchments as potentially suitable for sustainable agricultural development and warranting further investigation.

Key constraints to profitable development were considered and included temperature and associate crop stress expected under climate change; the limited road and rail access to markets; access to labour; production costs; soil fertility and vegetation clearing restrictions.

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The focus of this study is a desktop assessment to identify areas of Queensland that may be suitable for further investigation for underground technologies (sand dams or underground dams) to support agricultural developments.

The first report presents a literature review, including an overview of the regulatory framework in Queensland and a summary of previous investigations into managed aquifer recharge schemes in Queensland by water plan area.

The second report presents the results of the Multi-Criteria Analysis (MCA) methodology used and the results of the analysis, identifying areas as having good potential for location of sand dams and sub-surface dams.

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