By Jeremy Sollars
As previously reported in the Free Times primary producers across the Warwick area with undergroundwater allocations in the Upper Condamine catchment were given short notice in the last week of June that their use of irrigation water – for crops and livestock – would be restricted to just Tuesday and Thursday nights from 1 July, unless they installed water meters.
They were also threatened with fines of up to $217,000 for non-compliance.
Furious producers from districts including Junabee and Swan, Emu and Farm Creeks and surrounding areas held a meeting at the Swan Creek Hall east of Warwick on Thursday 18 July to protest the changes, slamming the State Government for a lack of notice and consultation.
Irrigation users from the Glengallan Valley held another protest meeting on Thursday 1 August at the Gladfield Hall where senior staff from the Toowoomba and Warwick offices of the Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy (DNRME) were given a grilling and told in no uncertain terms the new restrictions were unfair and unworkable, especially during the current drought.
The department finally caved in last week, announcing last Friday 9 August it had agreed to the demand by producers across the ‘Upper Condamine alluvium tributaries’ to be able to irrigate for up to eight hours five times a week “until further notice”.
Underground water supplies in farming areas east and north of Warwick continue to hold up reasonably well despite the dry – in many areas the water table is between 50 and 80 per cent of its ‘saturated’ level – but for the producers concerned that supply is now the only source of water with which to sustain their farming operations.
The department’s backdown comes as large-scale vegetable producers from east of the Great Dividing Range continue to eye-off farming land in the Warwick area.
The Free Times understands firms including Moffatt Fresh Produce and Kalfresh are seeking to lease land in the Maryvale, Glengallan and Allora areas to expand their operations.