WATER WANTED: The Southern Downs have their eyes on the prize of the Clarence River.
WATER WANTED: The Southern Downs have their eyes on the prize of the Clarence River. Caitlan Charles

Southern Downs' plans to take Clarence River water

A WATER supply plan that's spent three decades in the pipeline entered the next stage of development this week as Southern Downs Regional councillors voted in favour of the Clarence River diversion.

The river, located in northern NSW, has been at the forefront of drought contingency discussions since representatives from the Southern Downs, Toowoomba, Western Downs and Tenterfield Shire endorsed the plan in May.

Only 7 per cent of the water in the Clarence River is currently allocated, with the vast majority of its supply allowed to run out to sea.

Councillors will submit the project as their first priority to a list of nationally significant projects by Infrastructure Australia.

The federal plan invites local governments to make submissions to be included in a list of significant infrastructure developments that will eventually inform a 15-year rolling national infrastructure plan.

The Clarence River pipeline was eligible because it is described as an 'early stage' solution to long term water security.

Councillor Yve Stocks said the region 'badly needed' the pipeline.

"The problem is that nobody thought about it in the past,” Cr Stocks said.

"We need to keep thinking about the future.”

According to council documents, the project fits within their Corporate Plan for the years 2019-2023 to identify new external revenue sources to fund infrastructure.

In an earlier statement, Mayor Tracy Dobie said the water could flow into the Condamine River at Elbow Valley where a new dam could be built to store the water.

SDRC's water contingency plan for August included a long term action to 'consider planning for an additional dam in the Elbow Valley region.'

There are yet to be any official estimates as to the price of the pipeline or the dam.

Should the plan be picked up by the federal or state government, it faces significant approval challenges from Clarence Valley mayor Jim Simmons who said his constituents were 'opposed to any proposal to dam or divert the Clarence River.'

Cr Simmons said his council has yet to be included in discussions.