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  • Gasfields Commission
  • 2016-06-23

Two rural landholders near Chinchilla have shared their experiences with their local newspaper about using treated groundwater from the region's coal seam gas (CSG) industry.

Farmer, Greg Bender and grazier Don Bell spoke with Matthew Newton from the Chinchilla News about the challenges and opportunities from using treated CSG water in their rural operations.

Here's a short extract from each landholder's story –

Greg Bender
Greg Bender

Irrigated cropping brings greater productivity and marketing options

Originally a dry-land cropping set-up where he might have planted one crop every 18 months, Mr Bender now has 1800 acres of irrigation at his disposal.

Where once Burradoo's main crop was cotton, with single paddocks harvested once every two-three years, now he's got a continual cash flow.

“Nearly every month we're selling something because we're growing crops all year round,” he said.

The almost guaranteed supply of water has given Mr Bender the confidence to hedge his bets and take advantage of good commodity prices long before it's time to harvest.

There are other benefits too - Mr Bender has had to put on three full-time employees to keep up with the increase in work and with all the pumping going on, machines need maintaining more often.

“It's definitely been financially rewarding for us since it's come on stream, but it's been a lot of work and a lot of risk too,” Mr Bender said.

Don Bell
Don Bell

Grazier says access to CSG water means you can deal with the dry times a bit easier

Downstream of the weir on the banks of the Condamine sits 'Lallalindi', Don and Lorraine Bell's 840 hectare cattle property. While other farmers on the scheme already had irrigation infrastructure in place, the Bells had to start from scratch.

In 2012, Mr Bell bought and installed a pivot in preparation for the supply of CSG water.

“The pivot's been in for about four years, but we went two years before we started getting water. The pivot just sat there. It was a most expensive bird roost,” he said.

These days, Mr Bell, like the rest of the farmers on the scheme, is receiving about half the allocation he thought he would. That's okay in the winter when he doesn't use as much water, but the hotter summer months are a squeeze.

The pivot waters about 35 hectares, half of which is under improved pasture with Rhodes Grass and the other half under forage sorghum and burgundy bean.

“It would be better if we had more water... at the moment I'm only watering half of my area because our water is down, and then if they cut us back even more it's going to make it more difficult.”

Despite the ongoing issues with supply, Mr Bell said the pivot had given him more flexibility. In the past, there have been plenty of times where the Bells have had to sell their cows due to drought. He now runs 250 head of cattle, but in the past has had to cut his herd back during the dry.

Read the full story – The Ebbs and Flows of CSG water use by Matthew Newton from the Chinchilla News that was published in the Surat Basin News on 27 May 2016.