Pressure on Hobart's drinking water system will ease if a new southern irrigation scheme gets the final go-ahead, Tasmanian Irrigation says.
- The proposal involves bypassing Hobart's drinking water system
- If the plan goes ahead it will be Tasmania's largest irrigation scheme
- Water restrictions for the region's farmers will be a thing of the past
The $408-million project would double the amount of water available to farmers, including in the Coal River Valley's growing vineyard and salad greens sector.
"This proposal will be a 41,000 megalitre scheme — it will be the biggest irrigation program undertaken in the state if we can get it developed," Tasmanian Irrigation chief executive Andrew Kneebone said.
The state-owned company released details of the scheme today.
It would tap into Lake Meadowbank in the Derwent Valley and merge three existing irrigation schemes, bypassing infrastructure used for drinking water.
"It will be a much more reliable, fit for purpose and cost effective supply for the region," Mr Kneebone said.
Years of restrictions
Over the past three years Hobart residents and farmers in the south-east were put under water restrictions.
In the past dry conditions were to blame, but last year the restrictions were caused by ageing water treatment plants that struggled to maintain drinking water quality after months of heavy rain.
The new system would take pressure off the drinking water supplies by cutting farmers out altogether.
"We're freeing up a lot of spare capacity back into the Hobart system because we'll no longer be taking that 7,000 litres out of the system," Mr Kneebone said.
For farmers it will mean that water restrictions will be a thing of the past.
It also means Tasmanian Irrigation can reduce the cost of providing the water to irrigators.
"We would have more farmers and more megalitres to defray our costs over and reduce the per-megalitre cost, because we are pumping raw water rather than fully treated water," Mr Kneebone said.
Coal River Valley mixed farmer Justin Nichols has lobbied for change to the irrigation system for decades and welcomes the plan.
"We're looking at intensification, we've been looking at a vineyard option, we've got strawberries at the moment and want to expand that as well," he said.
"They're high value enterprises that can employ a lot more people.
The project is up for public comment. It relies on farmers to buy up water rights.