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Water Advocacy


Cairns Regional Council is seeking federal and state funding for an expensive water infrastructure project that seeks to source water from the Mulgrave River and increase the volume of water being drawn from Council’s existing Behana Creek water supply through an enhanced treatment process. 

Council states that “access to new water supply capacity is now critical”, yet our region’s per capita demand for water is significantly higher than other regions (390 L/c/d in 2020/21 compared to SEQ’s 252 L/c/d in 2020/21 [difference of 138L/cd].

In recent years, Council has neglected to include water usage data in State of Environment reports, has delayed implementation of the smart water metre initiative, and has allowed for their water education team to fold. 

Climate change is projected to affect freshwater availability in our region due to coastal inundation, extreme weather events, and increased rates of evaporation. Therefore, this infrastructure proposal, which relies on the current level of water availability in our system, is not climate resilient. We need to be investing in water security solutions that are cost effective, climate resilient and environmentally sensitive. 


While infrastrucutre hasmDemand Management. The Cairns Regional Council currently has a demand management approach which is unfocused, unfunded, but highly effective when implemented properly.

Water crises have never been solved with infrastructure. In the millennium drought it was demand management, around the world, water crises are solved by demand management. It is climate resilient, affordable and effective. While infrastructure has a role, it is not a stand alone solution.

When SEQ’s water security was at risk during the Millennium Drought, demand management initiatives worked!


 More about the Problem

There has been an increasing push from federal and state governments to increase water infrastructure in Far North Queensland. These include 

  1. Mulgrave River Water Harvesting Proposal 
  2. Lakeland Irrigation Scheme 
  3. The ‘New’ Bradfield Scheme

There are also water plan reviews that are happening in the region 

    1. The Regional Water Supply Security Assessment for the Southern Atherton Tablelands 
    2. The Barron River Water Plan Review

    Climate change is affecting water availability:

    • Overall water availability is reducing.
    • Rainfall events will be condensed and have a high impact. 

    We are concerned about a sole focus on water infrastructure, with a lack of work on demand management because:

    • Water infrastructure does not create more water in our system and is vulnerable to climate change (i.e. not future-proof). We would potentially spend big $ only to need more/different infrastructure to adapt to changing rainfall patterns.
    • Water infrastructure that takes water from elsewhere impacts the environment: peak flow ecological impacts; associated dams; infrastructure impacts.
    • Water allocation for this proposal will be at a deficit to other users.

    Further Reading:

    Regional Water Assessment

    CRC Water Strategy 2015

    SEQ Learnings Millennium Drought