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CSIRO showcases its work in the north

Facing the Fitzroy: CSIRO researchers Dr Mark Thomas and Noel Schoknecht inspect the Fitzroy catchment in Western Australia.

CSIRO researchers ventured into the Fitzroy and Mitchell catchments to signal the start of the Northern Australia Water Resources Assessment (NAWRA) project.

The $15 million project is examining the water resources in three priority regions in northern Australia, namely the Fitzroy catchment in Western Australia, the Mitchell catchment in Queensland and the Darwin catchments (Adelaide, Finniss, Mary and Wildman) in the Northern Territory.

The assessment’s researchers will examine the sustainable development of the region and look at ways to innovate, from soil and water availability through to expanding market opportunities.

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Reconnaissance trip: Travelling across the lower Fitzroy catchment on Saturday, 21 May 2016. Researchers were looking at the limestone formations on the Leopold Downs Road west of Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia.

Researchers visited the Fitzroy catchment to view successful agricultural developments in the west Kimberley, including the irrigated agriculture trial that is currently taking place at Mowanjum Station near Derby involving centre pivot irrigation.

Researchers then headed to the Mitchell catchment in Queensland to continue to look at land suitability for agriculture and other purposes.

More than 60 per cent of Australia’s total surface water runoff occurs north of the Tropic of Capricorn – this could potentially support up to 1.4 million hectares of irrigated land, increasing Australia’s irrigated area by 50 per cent.

CSIRO Research Leader for the Northern Territory Chris Chilcott believes the field trips are an important step in unlocking the potential of northern Australia.

“When it comes to examining water resources, NAWRA is focused on building on local knowledge. It’s about meeting land owners, working with all levels of government and universities and gathering data on the ground,” he said.

“It is good to see how, through initiatives such as the Western Australian Water for Food project, the community is able to derive definite social and economic benefits.”

The NAWRA work is just one example of how CSIRO is supporting the Australian Government to further develop northern Australia with research projects that aim to better utilise land, water, energy and protect biosecurity in the region.

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Moved by the Mitchell: CSIRO researcher Peter R Wilson at a waterhole on the Mitchell floodplain, Queensland.

The breadth of CSIRO’s northern Australia research will be highlighted at the Developing Northern Australia Conference.

The conference is hosted by the Association of Sustainability in Business and runs from Monday, 20 to 22 June at the Darwin Convention Centre.

Led by CSIRO’s Northern Australia Research Director Peter Stone, seven CSIRO researchers will present at the conference that explores how industry, business, government and agribusiness are embracing the opportunities for sustainable growth into the next decade.

The CSIRO presenters and their respective topics at the conference are as follows:

  • Peter Stone, Research Director, Land and Water – Leading a forum on land and water in northern Australia
  • Cuan Petheram, Research Scientist, Land and Water – Opportunities provided by different sources of water
  • Gary Fitt, Science Director, Health and Biosecurity — Australia’s biosecurity future, implications for northern Australia
  • David Hansen, CEO, Australian e-Health Research Centre – Digital health in northern Australia
  • Marcus Barber, Senior Research Scientist, and Nerida Horner, Northern Territory Science Consultant – Enabling equity of access and community development in northern Australia
  • Mark Paterson, Domain Leader Grids and Renewable Energy Integration – Accelerating northern Australia’s energy future
  • Andrew Higgins, Principal Research Scientist, Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool (TraNSIT) – Application to $100 million Northern Australia Beef Roads Programme and other agriculture.

The NAWRA project is funded by the Australian Government. For more information click here.

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