Federal government pours $5 million into water security research

By Melissa Coade

Thursday November 18, 2021

David Littleproud
Minister for agriculture and northern Australia David Littleproud. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Three universities have been selected to lead a cooperative study on water security in northern Australia, which will consider how the allocation, governance and service delivery of the precious resource can be used to develop the Top End.

Charles Darwin University (CDU), CQUniversity Australia (CQU) and James Cook University (JCU) will share in $5 million federal money from the Cooperative Research Centre for Developing Northern Australia (CRCNA) to undertake the research as part of what the government is calling an investment partnership. 

According to special envoy for northern Australia Susan McDonald, the research findings will inform water security decisions at all levels of government. In a statement on Wednesday, the Queensland senator said the research would ‘back up’ the ‘enormous’ benefits of storing water for people, crops and livestock. 

“The federal government is committed to building water storage to support heavy industry, tourism and agriculture, but we need cooperation at state and council level to ensure this can happen,” McDonald said.

The added benefits that better water security offered northern Australia also could not be discounted, minister for agriculture and northern Australia David Littleproud said. He predicted that the cooperative would not only help to grow and transform existing sectors but also create new ones.

“This research is about getting sustainable water supplies for the health and wellbeing of northern communities, and for successful agriculture and aquaculture industries,” Littleproud said. 

CRCNA CEO Anne Stünzner described the partnership as a ‘vital opportunity’ to demonstrate that agricultural growth and sustainable ecosystems could co-exist in a water context. She added that the research would span several transformative initiatives across the north.

Among the issues to be investigated by research teams from the three universities include water resource allocation governance, agricultural diversification, and water service delivery to remote and regional areas, including Indigenous communities.

Professor Sandra Harding, JCU’s vice-chancellor, said each of the three partner universities understood the local significance of water infrastructure and security, and the extent to which securing it would determine how Northern Australia developed.

“Being based in the north, all three universities share both the context and operating challenges that are unique to Northern Australia to push the boundaries of water research to help secure water supply and security to northern Australia for years to come,” Professor Harding said.

“Northern Australia makes up almost half the landmass of our vast continent, with an urgent need for new knowledge and innovative solutions across environmental, industrial and cultural dimensions,” CQU Vice-Chancellor Professor Klomp added.

CDU Vice-Chancellor Professor Scott Bowman also noted that the research partnership would enhance his university’s existing research capabilities and ‘put the Territory at the forefront of water infrastructure and security research’.

The Mandarin previously reported on another CRCNA water-focused funding announcement last month, with $250,000 to go towards a three-year water efficiency project led by the NT Farmers’ Association.


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