Big ideas for a secure water future

A history of strong water management

Australia’s inhabitants have a long history of overcoming the sometimes harsh realities of life in the world’s driest inhabited continent. Access to water and security of supply, have played a critical role in the growth of Australia. Water has significance for Indigenous Australians – the cultural and spiritual values of water are important for Indigenous culture and identity.

Ideas and solutions to harness water for productive use, such as the Snowy Mountains Hydro-electric Scheme in New South Wales and the Ord Irrigation Scheme in Western Australia capture Australia’s can-do spirit.

The role of contemporary science in securing water for our future

Proposals for moving water over long distances from wet to dry areas of our country continue to capture our imagination as we look for ways to increase our resilience to drought and secure a reliable water supply to underpin our prosperity into the future. An example is the ambitious scheme proposed by Dr John Bradfield in 1938, known as the Bradfield Scheme.

Using contemporary science and working with Australia’s science agencies, the National Water Grid Authority (NWGA) will lead a nationally-focused program of work that will test the assumptions that underpin popular ideas, and develop new, evidence-based ideas to deliver the water infrastructure of the future.

This includes a thorough exploration of the opportunities and challenges that concepts such as Dr John Bradfield’s original vision, and its more recent variations such as the New Bradfield Scheme, present for new and existing agriculture and primary industries, and thriving regions.

Fast facts

The Bradfield Scheme continues to feature prominently in the national conversation about Australia’s future water security.

  • Did you know?

    The Bradfield Scheme included proposals to move water from the coastal catchments of north Queensland, including the Tully, Herbert and Burdekin Rivers, across the Great Dividing Range to western Queensland, sending it through a catchment at Hells Gate and into the Thomson River, before moving it to Kati-Thanda-Lake Eyre (Lake Eyre).

  • Did you know?

    The Bradfield Scheme has been investigated and revised over time. There are a range of variations of the Scheme, including moving water into southern Queensland and New South Wales.

  • Did you know?

    With access to the best available science to investigate water scheme proposals, both new and historic, we have the opportunity to test the assumptions that underpin old ideas, and develop new ideas with strong evidence-bases, to deliver the water infrastructure of the future.


Our early priorities include examining the Bradfield Scheme and its variations more closely, in collaboration with Australia’s leading science agencies.

Aerial view of construction of the Scottsdale Irrigation Scheme in Tasmania in Australia

National Water Grid Authority Science Program

Science plays an important role in identifying the infrastructure that is best suited to improving water security in Australia’s regions, and in delivering the next generation of Australia’s water infrastructure through the National Water Grid.

Learn more