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Farmers facing pressure over predicted water allocations


Bundaberg farmers are increasingly worried there will not be enough water in the region to work their farms in the new financial year. 
Locals have been on edge ever since the release of 100,000 megalitres of water from Paradise Dam in 2019, to improve the safety of the dam's spillway. 
Construction on the spillway was completed in March this year, but the dam is still only sitting at 35 per cent. 
The latest predictions by Sunwater show allocations for the 2021/22 water year - for the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme at Paradise Dam - will be between just 14-17 per cent. 
Childers cane farmer Judy Plath says that is simply not enough to keep most farms in the region afloat. 
She says cane farmers have already been working on the assumption the allocations are going to be somewhere between 10-30 per cent. 
"The recent letter from Sunwater confirms we won't be getting anything more than 17 per cent," Ms Plath says. 
"Growers are going to have to drastically reassess how they irrigate their crops because the announced allocations of 14-17 per cent is almost unworkable for a lot of farms in the region." 
A Sunwater spokesperson says while allocations for the Bundaberg Water Supply Scheme are predicted to be low, Bundaberg's Fred Haigh Dam is forecast to be between 93-96 per cent.
The spokesperson says Sunwater is also hoping for further rainfall in the coming months to ease the region's drought. 
"Announced allocations are set at the start of the water year and cannot decrease as dam capacity levels reduce.
"However, should inflows occur, allocations can increase to a maximum of 100 per cent, as they did during the 2020-21 water year.
"Sunwater understands the significant pressure drought conditions are having on regional Queensland and is doing all it can to ensure there is as much water available as possible for irrigators and the community."
Water allocations for the new year are expected to be released within the two weeks after July 1. 
Paradise Dam future drying up
An options report about the future of Paradise Dam, and whether or not to raise its dam wall, has been provided to the Queensland Government. 
But LNP Member for Burnett Stephen Bennett is pointing fingers, saying the report is now six months overdue. 
“Building Queensland’s very own Options Assessment states a decision upon the preferred long‐term option(s) of the dam was due at the end of 2020. 
“How can any farmer be expected to make a decision about their future without knowing if there’s any future water security?" Mr Bennett says. 
Queensland Minister for Water Glenn Butcher says that is simply not true and a decision on the long-term future of the dam will be made by the end of 2021. 
"I have been very clear and consistent in saying the Queensland Government will be in a position to make a decision on the long-term future of the dam by the end of 2021 – as noted in the Business Queensland Options Paper,"
"Along with Sunwater, I have been engaging directly with local stakeholders and industry groups and will continue to do so," Mr Butcher says.