Fraser Coast cane growers will struggle to withstand another drought unless a plan for more water storage is put in place.
Stewart Norton, general manager of MSF Sugar, said while plenty of water went down the river during heavy downpours, not enough of it was being stored, which left irrigators high and dry when the region had no rain.
During the drought in 2014 and again this year, Sunwater was forced to shut off the water supply to irrigators when the water in the city’s storage system, located near the barrage, ran out.
But when ex-tropical cyclone Debbie hit the region, water was again plentiful and the barrage was overflowing.
In fact Mr Norton said the barrage was still overflowing last week when he checked it, with most of that water going out to sea.
“It’s not that there’s not enough water, it’s just that we can’t get it when we need it sometimes.”
Mr Stewart said storing even a small part of that water would go a long way to drought-proofing the region and helping irrigators keep their crops watered.
“Certainly that helps the sugar industry in terms of long-term sustainability and viability,” he said.
Maryborough MP Bruce Saunders said preventing future water shortages was crucial for taking Maryborough forward.
He said off-stream storage was the best plan to ensure the water supply for agriculture in the region.
“If we could harvest it we could use it for years to come, it would make this area go ahead,” he said.
“MSF Sugar have big plans for the area, but they desperately need water to make sure they have a sustainable industry here.”
Mr Saunders said water could be harvested during big rain events like ex-tropical cyclone Debbie.
He said one of his election commitments would be to get more water storage for the region in order to grow agriculture and jobs.