The Burdekin Basin supports a range of landscapes and communities, and activities such as agriculture, fishing and recreation.
Should they proceed, the numerous dam proposals along the Burdekin could threaten the long-term health of the river, as well as the internationally important, Ramsar-listed wetlands of Bowling Green Bay and the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area.
Urannah Dam, Hells Gates Dam and the expansion of the Burdekin Falls Dam could together contribute to increased turbidity (dirtiness) of the Burdekin River, rising water tables (and associated threats to agricultural production) in the Lower Burdekin, the erosion of Cape Bowling Green due to sediment starvation, and increased nutrient flows to the Great Barrier Reef.
There is a lot of research and information available covering these topics of concern, and we have listed some useful resources on this page.
We aim to raise awareness of the risks associated with multiple, large-scale dam proposals and work with policy-makers, stakeholders and North Queensland communities to ensure the best outcomes for people, industry and the environment. We are working to prevent the Burdekin River from becoming the next Murray-Darling.
- July 2021: The Terms of Reference for the Environmental Impact Statement for Big Rocks Weir have been released.
- June 2021: Looking for a win-win on the Burdekin - an abstract by John Connell
- May 2021: Erosion of Cape Bowling Green - an overview
- May 2021: Running Our Rivers Dry - a letter published in the Townsville Bulletin
- March 2021: Swimming for Our Rivers - a fundraiser to support our Rivers campaign
- March 2021: Burdekin River Sustainability in Focus on World Water Day - a media release
- December 2020: Mayor McLaughlin on Burdekin Catchment Damming - an article from the Townsville Bulletin
- Click here to see the latest updates and all previous blog posts relating to this campaign.
- This document was prepared by Dr Eric Wolanski and John Connell, and provides a summary of some of the environmental issues facing the Burdekin Basin, with a focus on the erosion of Cape Bowling Green.
- Check out the Productivity Commission webinar (02/03/2021) on National Water Reform 2020 here.
- Read our submission on the National Water Reform draft report here.
- Read our latest submissions on the Burdekin Falls Dam Raising Project and the Urannah Dam Project here.
There are active proposals for a total of four new dams/weirs on the Burdekin: Hells Gates Dam (HGD); Big Rocks Weir, raising of the Burdekin Falls Dam and Urannah Dam. The cumulative effect of the additional water extraction of these will have a disastrous impact on the health of the Burdekin and the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) lagoon. Impacts include:
a) turning the Burdekin turbid for 12 months of the year below the dams (in the case of the HGD - for 270km or 52% of the Burdekin length), affecting all aquatic life in the river.
b) increased rise of the water table and salination in the Lower Burdekin Irrigation Areas, threatening established crop production.
c) sediment starvation and erosion of Cape Bowling Green (CBG). Breaching of CBG would radically affect Bowling Green Bay, and potentially affect the coastal communities of Cungalla and Jerona.
d) increased nutrient flows to the GBR from additional areas of agriculture. This would further intensify the existing threat to GBR water quality, reef health and biodiversity.
NQCC first raised concerns on the proposal for the Hells Gates Dam in October 2016 and again in November 2019. The Feasibility Study (2018) showed that irrigated agriculture in the proposed areas would not be economic for farmers, and yet a further $24M has been granted for a detailed Business Case Study.
In early 2020, NQCC formed the Burdekin Basin Sub-Committee which has;
a) studied a wide range of reports and academic studies;
b) conducted field visits to inspect sensitive sites (e.g. Cape Bowling Green erosion);
c) hosted a high-level seminar attended by a range of stakeholders (local councils, irrigators, fishing industry and environmental agencies) which covered issues in all areas of the Burdekin Basin;
d) made a submission to the Coordinator General for a coordinated approach to assessing proposals for water extraction and longer-term management of the Burdekin Basin.
This web page brings the results of this work together for all agencies and individuals with responsibilities and concerns for sustainable water management in the Burdekin, and in Australia more generally. The site will be updated as additional information and progress in activities becomes available.
There is no need for the Hells Gates Dam and it makes no sense! When Townsville faced a water crisis several years ago, all sorts of suggestions were made about the best way to secure a water supply for Townsville. The Hells Gates Dam was suggested by many as the way to guarantee water supply for Townsville, but we disagree.Read more
This, the fourth post in our water security series, began as a response to the first of them, the Townsville Water Discussion Paper, and addresses an issue which none of the first three looked at. Parts 2 and 3 are here and here. This is a guest post by Malcolm Tattersall. Once again, views expressed are the author’s, not those of NQCC.
When I read Gail Hamilton’s post six weeks ago I agreed with nearly all of it but noticed a gap which was potentially important, i.e. the impact of climate change on our water security: the ‘Regional Water Supply Security Assessment’ from the Department of Water and Energy Supply (2014) (pdf here), upon which she relied for her ‘current situation’ section, didn’t consider climate change effects at all.
That seemed quite odd to me since we know that climate change is with us already on a global level – that most of the hottest years on record have occurred this century, that desertification is a key driver of conflicts in the Middle East, and that sea level rise is drowning low-lying islands and threatening major cities around the world. Some of us have also been feeling, on a much more local and personal level, that Townsville has been having weaker Wet seasons and hotter summers than ever before, and I happened to know, because I looked at it recently, that Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) data backs up our feelings.Read more
Another busy month at NQCC! November will be another eventful month, with Maree attending the Environment Roundtables with other Queensland enviro groups, NQCC hosting an intern, and our unmissable trivia night on the 19th – don’t forget to purchase your tickets!
In this issue: Townsville Port expansion – radioactive contamination at Ben Lomond – Adani ‘critical infrastructure’ – Hell’s Gate Dam forum wrap-up – fisheries reform – Marine Park review – Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – NQCC’s trivia night – EOI for 2017 postcard exhibition.Read more
This is the third part in a four-part series that discusses issues about water in our region. Read part 1 here. Read part 2 here. Part four asks how climate change will affect our region’s water security.
NQCC hosted a forum about the Hell’s Gate Dam feasibility study currently being conducted by Townsville Enterprise Ltd. NQCC was grateful to have the on-hand expertise of Patricia O’Callaghan (TEL CEO), David Lynch (principal economist for the study) and Jon Brodie (waterways expert). Here is what we were told about the dam and the study, plus questions that came from the audience.Read more
This is the second part in a four-part series that discusses issues about water in our region. Read part 1 here. Part three is a summary report of information shared by Townsville Enterprise Ltd. about the Hell’s Gate Dam feasibility study at our forum that was held on 10 October. Part four asks how climate change will affect our region’s water security.
Guest post written by Vern Veitch. All views expressed are the author’s and not the official opinion of NQCC.
With Townsville in a drought and under Level 3 water restrictions, the public are asking a lot of questions. Water falls out of the sky so why does it cost so much? Why don’t we just build another dam? If the dams are on higher ground, then why does water have to be pumped?
Mainstream media in Townsville certainly muddies the waters by publishing half-truths and not publishing all the really important bits of information. Through a concerted media effort, the public has been led to believe that Hell’s Gate is the answer to endless and cheap water.Read more
Guest post written by Gail Hamilton. Views expressed are the author’s and not the official opinion of NQCC.
This is the first part in a four-part series that discusses issues about water security in our region. Part two explores dam infrastructure options, and part three is a summary report of information shared by Townsville Enterprise Ltd. about the Hell’s Gate Dam feasibility study at our AGM and forum. Part four asks how climate change will affect our region’s water security.
Townsville has an excellent water supply system, with highly treated and very safe water sourced from the Ross, Paluma and Burdekin dams.
While the Ross is our main supply dam, it is highly variable, with a limited catchment and low rainfall. The Paluma Dam is situated in the wet tropics and is much more reliable, but can only supply 30 ML per day. The Burdekin Dam is a huge system, with over 1 000 000 ML per year of water allocations, some of which is not committed. Townsville has 120 000 ML of allocation from the Burdekin.
In 2014, the Department of Energy and Water Supply undertook an assessment of Townsville’s water security.Read more