Water find opens up Pilbara potential

Water find opens up Pilbara potential


Agribusiness
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A WA pastoralist believes northern WA has the potential to be Australia's next food bowl after a successful drilling operation uncovered a massive supply of underground water.

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Steve Chitty (left), from Western Drilling and Pardoo station owner Graeme Rogers (right), watching the bore dispense water at 200 litres per second.

Steve Chitty (left), from Western Drilling and Pardoo station owner Graeme Rogers (right), watching the bore dispense water at 200 litres per second.

A WA pastoralist believes northern WA has the potential to be Australia's next food bowl after a successful drilling operation uncovered a massive supply of underground water.

Pardoo Station owner, Graeme Rogers, oversaw the three-year, $150,000 irrigation project, designed to grow sorghum and cereal crops, on the Pilbara property.

The bore took five weeks to drill and was completed last week.

Mr Rogers said he expected the bore, which is flowing at 200 litres a second, to flow at about five million litres a day, but it has already reached 17 million.

"The sky's the limit, I'm not sure where it will end up," Mr Rogers said.

"It certainly makes the project a lot more viable in the fact that we don't have to pump water.

"There's enough pressure coming out of the ground and enough volume to run the sprinklers themselves, they don't need pumps, therefore it's about $160,000 a year that we're saving on diesel."

Mr Rogers, who runs 6000 cattle on Pardoo, hopes to have the first crop under the pivot by March next year.

Pardoo Station has a 10 gigalitre water allocation, and Mr Rogers' proposal is to eventually have 17 40-hectare pivots that will supply feed to surrounding pastoralists.

"If we can grow commercial crops and sell the feed locally, it will save a lot of money for pastoralists," he said.

"It will certainly be a cheaper source of hay in the area, rather than bringing it in from Geraldton or Perth, as we've been doing every year."

Mr Rogers currently sends cattle to his feedlot in Coolup to finish them off, but said the crops would make his enterprise more profitable because he would be able to value-add stock on the station.

He said the water also created many other opportunities, such as supplying drinking water to Port Hedland.

"I think their aquifers are starting to diminish, so they will be looking at other sources, because Port Hedland is growing so fast," he said.

"It's a great opportunity for the Pilbara."

With Eastern States farmers suffering due to the lack of water in the Murray Darling catchment, Mr Rogers said northern WA had the resources needed for viable food production.

He said urban sprawl was eating up prime agricultural land in the south of WA, and because the cost of land was so high in that area it was becoming unviable to produce food there.

"We've got water, we've got land, so I believe the north of WA will one day become a food bowl," he said.

"If you can grow a fodder crop here, you can grow anything.

"It doesn't have to be restricted to cattle fodder."

Driller, Steven Chitty, of Western Drilling, said he had drilled bores that produced similar amounts of water, but they weren't flowing.

"This is the highest-yielding flowing bore I have seen," he said.

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