A new statutory water authority, dubbed the National Water Grid, will be established if the Coalition wins government, Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has announced.
He said the new authority would deliver strategic planning and project management for water policy and water infrastructure across the country.
Under the plan the National Water Grid would bring together scientists to determine the best way to harvest water.
The Nationals said the creation of the body would ensure decisions were ‘‘based on best available science, not on political agendas’’.
The National Water Grid would also create a pipeline of all established, current and future water infrastructure projects and then identify the missing links and examine how large-scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost-effective water to farmers and regional communities.
An agreement through the Council of Australian Governments would be sought to secure agreement from all states and territories, as well as an initial $100million investment to begin investigation and delivery of water diversion projects.
‘‘We know the key to unlocking the potential of regional Australia is simple — just add water,’’ Mr McCormack said.
‘‘But we are being bold and building big and that’s why we will establish the National Water Grid, and its first order of business will be to look at how large-scale water diversion projects could be established to deliver reliable and cost-effective water to farmers and regional communities.
‘‘Right across our nation, our regional communities experience droughts and flooding rains and we need states to work more closely hand-in-hand with the Federal Government to better capture and store water as well as protecting our communities from devastating flood.’’
The proposal has been welcomed by National Irrigators’ Council chief executive Steve Whan.
He said he welcomed a careful and scientific approach to examine how to best use water in areas where it might be available, and in a way that was sustainable.
‘‘This should not be confused with a fight over the Murray-Darling,’’ Mr Whan said.
‘‘At a national level we would like all sides of politics to take a similar approach.
‘‘Recognise that there are opportunities to produce more irrigated produce in parts of Australia; rationally and sensibly assess the projects, considering sustainability both environmentally and in a business sense; consider related issues like demand and access to markets.
‘‘And, importantly, recognise that irrigated agriculture has a major positive regional development impact.’’