Rocky Mayor puts her argument forward for the Rookwood Weir

I WOULD like to talk about water.

Many of you will know that during my previous terms as Mayor, Rockhampton City Council was a major player in the development of the weir proposals and that I was the driver behind the "food bowl" concept, now known as "Growing Central Queensland", which flowed from it.

Given that we have the mighty barrage, it's a fair question to ask why we have such a strong interest in the development of water storages upstream.

Obviously we care for the jobs that would flow from the agricultural uses. But there are other layers to our interest as well.

In the world of water legislation there are two assets to consider - one is a water allocation, the other is the lump of concrete that stores it.

Rockhampton Regional Council is extremely fortunate in that we own both the barrage and the right to draw 50,000 megalitres of water per annum from behind it.

The barrage itself creates a relatively small body of water.

We rely on the river flowing to re-fill the barrage storage each year to ensure that our annual 50,000 megalitres of "high priority" (highly reliable) water is available to us.

If we were using our full allocation (50,000 megalitres/pa) and the river did not flow to re-fill the barrage storage we may only have sufficient supply at full unrestricted demand for nine months.

Please note that I did say "if we were using our full allocation of 50,000 megalitres" (which we are not) then these circumstances would apply.

But it does mean we are obviously hesitant about leasing our "spare" water and that it is prudent for council to consider how it can improve its water security now and into the future.

A recent survey of the barrage storage has revealed some silting at the barrage and it does not store as much water as previously believed. (Some of this difference may be due to more accurate ways of measuring too.)

So we are interested to be a player of some kind in the weirs.

We want to see another storage upstream which can help give us better water security.

And we have a particular interest to see that it is Rookwood Weir which is built to its fullest extent because Rookwood Weir will allow spare water for agriculture at the cheapest price we believe.

Back in 2007 it was agreed across all levels of government that of the "spare" water in the entire Fitzroy system (calculated modelling of historical records for rain and river flows), certain amounts were to be allocated to each stretch of the river.

You need an "allocation" of water to be able to build the storage to hold it.

At this time there were 76,000 megalitres allocated to the lower Fitzroy.

Allocations were also made further upstream to allow for the building of both the Nathan Dam and the Connors Dam.

Of the 76,000 megalitres allocated to the Lower Fitzroy, 30,000 megalitres has Gladstone's name on it, hence the discussions back in 2007/08 about the pipeline to Gladstone when they were seriously short of water.

Gladstone Area Water Board will be the anchor water purchaser, and a co-builder of whichever storage is chosen. Gladstone Area Water Board and Sunwater are near the end of the EIS process that will allow one or both of the weir projects to proceed.

I won't go into details here but there will be choices to be made between raising (existing) Eden Bann Weir or building (new) Rookwood Weir in full or in part.

We are of the opinion that building Rookwood to its full height (two stages) is the best solution for our community because it is the best option for agriculture.

If Rookwood Weir is built to full height then that uses all of the new allocation available for the lower Fitzroy.

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