FOR the first time since 2017 farmers in the upper Condamine River catchment with medium priority allocations can access water for irrigation.

Newly relaxed restrictions apply to the 95 farmers who draw from the Sunwater-run Leslie Dam reservoir near Warwick, which has returned to 28 percent capacity after years of drought.

In late March capacity was still only 12 percent, but up to 280mm of rainfall across the district over the past fortnight has boosted reserves significantly.

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Farmers have received not only substantial overland rain but now have catchment water access until at least July, for 75 percent of the allocations.

“Prior to the rainfall, with the dam levels so low, this allocation was at 0 per cent,” said water minister Glen Butcher.

“After a prolonged period of dry conditions the recent wet weather has delivered inflows into Leslie Dam, increasing the dam’s capacity to 28.24 per cent from less than 12 per cent in late March.

“This means that Sunwater has advised irrigators with medium priority allocations they will now have access to 75 per cent of their allocation for the remainder of the water year, which runs to 30 June this year.”

High priority allocations for the Upper Condamine scheme – typically reserved for urban use, permanent cropping and industry – remain at 100 per cent.

There is currently 30,005 megalitres in the dam and the medium priority allocation will be available as long as the dam’s supply level remains above 15,000 megalitres.

At full capacity Leslie Dam holds 106,000 megalitres.

Agriculture and rural communities minister Mark Furner said the water allocations would make a significant difference for the region’s farmers.

“So many of our farmers have done it tough for years through Queensland’s drought, so it warms the heart to see the irrigators rewarded for their patience,” Mr Furner said.

“This will be great for local producers, great for local jobs and great for the region’s economic recovery.”

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