Following years of devastating drought, bushfires and other natural disasters, our regions and farmers are doing it tough. One of the most pressing issues in our communities is water reliability and efficiency. As one of the fundamental human needs, safe and secure water is of the utmost importance. Now, thanks to the newly announced National Water Grid Connections funding pathway, 40 water projects across the nation will share in $108 million in funding to help bolster water infrastructure, while also creating much needed jobs and economic stimulus in our regions. Here, we take a look at the projects that will soon be underway across Australia, the upcoming projects and job creation opportunities, and why it is integral to develop more efficient and secure water infrastructure for all.

The road to water security in our regions

The National Water Grid Connections funding pathway was initially announced in the Federal Government’s 2021-22 Budget as part of the $3.5 billion National Water Grid Fund, led by the National Water Grid Authority (NWGA).

For the funding pathway, the NWGA sought proposals from Australia’s states, territories, and local governments for small-scale water projects that would increase the reliability, availability, and storage capacity of water for their regions.

While the NWGA is primarily focused on building larger water infrastructure projects, the smaller-scale projects that are being delivered under the National Water Grid Connections funding pathway are also vitally important, as they will help stimulate economic activity, create jobs and connect more customers to the National Water Grid, as well as improving water availability for irrigators across the nation.

The NWGA estimates that the 40 projects being funded across Australia will connect approximately 400 new customers and properties to vital water supplies, with an additional 13,000 customers to feel benefits from improved water reliability and access.

The projects are expected to create 2,550 ongoing employment opportunities, with an additional 500 seasonal jobs and a further 1,175 construction jobs, which presents an opportunity for local and regional businesses and workers to receive meaningful employment opportunities and much-needed economic stimulus.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Barnaby Joyce, said that the projects funded under the pathway will provide significant impacts for communities across the country while helping to drive the country’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The National Water Grid Connections is all about driving the construction of smaller-scale projects over the next two years to provide short term economic stimulus,” Mr Joyce said. “The best thing we can do for this country is ensure a secure future for water, our farmers and our regional communities that continue to drive our economic recovery.

“The $3.5 billion National Water Grid Fund is paving the way to national water security, while promoting local economic activity and job creation along the way.”

Funding of up to $20 million has been made available to each state and territory to deliver the projects over a two-year span, with the Federal Government contributing up to $5 million in funding per project.

Working in partnership with local governments

Building strong, secure and reliable water sources across our country is no small task, and partnerships with all levels of stakeholders are key to achieving the National Water Grid’s goals.

According to the National Water Grid: Investing in Australia’s water future document, strong working relationships with state, territory, and local governments are essential to the success of the program, and were instrumental in creating the projects funded under the connections funding pathway.

Projects optioned for inclusion to the program were brought forward by the state and territory government and were chosen based on whether they met the investment framework  and delivered on at least one of the targeted priority themes:  improving water access and security; promoting regional economic growth and sustainability; and building resilience to drought and a changing climate.

One of the projects chosen for the program is Griffith City Council’s Lake Wyangan Water Sustainability Project, which involves the modification of the Reclamation Plant and the installation of a new 5.3km pipeline, which will facilitate the expansion of the local citrus industry and irrigation of farming areas.

Water from the reclamation plant will be mixed with the South Lake – which will be retained as a working lake – to a quality suitable for irrigation of farms to the North West. The North Lake will remain as a recreational lake for the region.

The $6.95 million project was funded by a 50/50 agreement with the NSW Government and the Federal Government through the funding pathway, helping to dramatically improve the quality and reliability of water for the community.

Griffith Mayor, John Dal Broi, said the Council’s application to fund a pipeline from the Water Reclamation Plant to the South Lake was the first stage of a holistic approach to rejuvenate the lake.

“The use of recycled water from the reclamation plant will free up fresh water from our annual allocation, to then be used for other purposes.

“We’re now progressing a detailed business case with NSW for the entire Lake Wyangan Plan, looking closely at costings, blue green algae management, salinity reduction, nutrient reduction, sediment control and cultural heritage protection,” Cr John Dal Broi said.

There will be numerous benefits as a result of the funding pathway for many more communities across Australia, especially for some of the nation’s more regional and remote communities which struggle with water reliability.

By supporting small-scale water projects as well as the larger scale infrastructure across Australia, residents, farmers and whole communities will be able to better recover from the economic impacts of COVID-19 and years of droughts and national disasters.

State-by-state breakdown of projects

NSW

There are five projects in total that are being funded in NSW under the National Water Grid Connections funding pathway program, with $15.8 million committed from the Federal Government.

These projects are expected to create 62 jobs during construction and 234 ongoing jobs. There will be an additional 1,650ML of storage capacity created with 4,380ML per annum of increased water availability. The projects will also result in over 190 new customers connected to water supply.

The projects are:

  • Lake Wyangan Water Sustainability project
  • Walcha Off-Stream Water Storage
  • West Wyalong Water Reliability project
  • Broken Hill to Menindee Graziers Pipeline
  • Urbenville Water Supply project

VIC

In Victoria there are nine projects in total that will share in $20 million in funding from the pathways program. The projects are estimated to increase water availability in the state by 1,700ML per annum and will provide 900ML of additional storage.

More than 125 ongoing jobs will be created through the projects and up to 100 construction jobs for the regions. An additional 13,000 customers are expected to feel the benefits of improved water availability and reliability.

The projects in Victoria include:

  • Kyneton Recycled Water Irrigation project
  • Gisborne to Sunbury Recycled Water Interconnector Stage 1
  • Horsham Agriculture SmartWater for Grains project
  • Victoria’s Emergency Water Supply Point Network
  • Bacchus Marsh Resilience and Critical Infrastructure
  • Macalister Resilience and Critical Infrastructure
  • Sunday Creek Irrigation and Reconfiguration project
  • Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District Channel Embankment Infrastructure Improvement project
  • Critical Headworks Infrastructure for the Modernised Goulburn-Murray Irrigation District

WA

Under the pathway, nine projects across Western Australia will share in $20 million in funding, helping to deliver an additional 11.5ML of storage capacity, as well as 6,437ML of increased water availability per annum. More than 40 ongoing jobs will be created across the projects, as well as 400 jobs during construction.

Western Australia’s projects include:

  • Cave Springs Road Tail Water Return System
  • Agricultural Area Dams and Strategic Community Water Supplies
  • Katanning to Kojonup Pipeline Enhancement
  • Jerramungup Dam Catchment Improvement
  • Gascoyne Irrigation Scheme Augmentation and Modernisation
  • Community Water Supplies Partnership Program with Local Government
  • Ravensthorpe Dam Catchment Extension
  • Cranbrook Dam Catchment Improvement
  • Wongutha Independent Water Security Pilot

SA

Ten projects across South Australia will share in over $20 million in funding from the Federal Government, helping to deliver 62 construction jobs and 859 ongoing jobs, aswell as huge economic stimulus for the regions. South Australians will enjoy 1,255ML of  extra storage capacity and 1,895ML of increased water availability per annum. 96 new properties and customers will be connected to water.

The state’s funded projects are:

  • Barossa Wine Grape Water Source Diversification
  • Callington Connection
  • Greenway’s Irrigation Trust
  • Improving Water Deliverability and Accessibility in the Lower Murray Reclaimed Irrigation Area
  • Pogona Barbata – Water for High-Tech Horticulture
  • Project 312 – The Olive Oil Project
  • Recycled Water Pipeline to Nairne – Stage 1
  • Regional Recharge Farms
  • Waikerie Irrigated Agricultural Water Access and Security Project
  • Water Recycled Project – Seven Point Pork

TAS

Tasmania will share in $20 million in funding for four projects across the state, with each project receiving $5 million each.

Collectively, these projects will provide an additional 295ML of storage capacity and up to 14.9GL of water availability per annum.

Additionally, Tasmanians will benefit from 53 construction jobs, 71 ongoing employment opportunities and an injection of economic stimulus across the state.

Tasmania’s four projects are:

  • Greater Meander Irrigation Scheme Augmentation
  • Shellfish Lease Water Quality Improvement Program
  • Penna Recycled Water Scheme Expansion
  • South Arm Recycled Water Pipeline

NT

In the Northern Territory, two projects received funding from the connections pathway with $7.4 million in funding committed from the Federal Government. The projects will help deliver 455 construction jobs and up to 1,171 ongoing jobs for communities, with 11.2ML of storage capacity and 2,700ML per annum of water availability. Up to 54 new customers or properties will benefit from water connections under the program.

Projects for the Northern Territory include:

  • Katherine Logistics and Agribusiness Hub Water Supply
  • Emerging Agribusiness Precinct – Gunn Point Peninsula

QLD

In Queensland, there is one project that will receive $4.8 million funding, which will see the infrastructure in the Warrens Gully System upgraded. This will include the construction of a new river pump station and will help to enhance water services to existing customers and facilitate the expansion of the agricultural industry customers and farmers in the area.

This project is estimated to create up to 43 jobs during construction and 50 ongoing jobs following completion. Additionally, there will be 12 to 18GL of storage capacity created and up to 15 new customers and properties connected to vital water supply.

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