An environment group has described a federal Coalition plan to to build dams to irrigate northern Australia as a "vampire that has to be slayed a few times".
A leaked draft discussion paper identifies 100 possible dam projects around the nation, with a heavy emphasis on irrigating a new "food bowl" in the Top End.
But Dr Stuart Blanch, director of the Northern Territory Environment Centre, says there is a lot of evidence the plan would not work.
"This thing keeps coming back from the dead," he said.
"I have spent many years trying to kill these dumb ideas, along with many people, including farmers and fishermen, Aboriginal communities, scientists.
"There is room for irrigation development in the north but it's not the food bowl, there's just not the scale." Dr Blanch says it appears the Federal Coalition is running a strategy of encouraging public discussion about "hare-brained" schemes to develop northern Australia.
"(It seems they are saying) give us all your craziest, biggest ideas, that all the sort of good, solid, scientific reasons have said should never get up, and we're gonna run with it," he said.
Dr Blanch is urging the Territory Government to legislate to ensure a dam is never built on the Daly River.
He says that without legal protection there is always a possibility dams could be built on important rivers.
"It would be good to have actual legal protection for the Daly River, particularly to show that we Territorians are going to look after our own rivers," he said.
Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has told Macquarie Radio that Australia needs to get over its "dam phobia".
"We don't have a water problem in this country; we have a water management problem," he said.
"We need to manage our water better; we need to make better use of our resources.
"We only make use of 6 per cent of our available water resources.
"I think these are things which we have to consider." The leaked draft discussion paper, details of which were published in Sydney's Daily Telegraph newspaper, identifies 100 possible projects that would cost about $30 billion if they all went ahead.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Terry Mills says dams aren't needed in the north for irrigation.
"What we do need to consider ...
is planning where our future water supplies for our increased population is going to come from," he said.
"With all the water we have come out of the sky and flow down our rivers, we sometimes face the prospects of not having enough water to drink." The leaked draft document was written by a Coalition taskforce chaired by shadow finance minister Andrew Robb and deputy chair Barnaby Joyce, shadow environment minister Greg Hunt, spokesman on northern Australia Ian MacDonald, spokesman on the Murray Darling Simon Birmingham and Senator Bill Heffernan.
According to the Daily Telegraph report, one of the ideas mooted involves transporting water from the Kimberley region of Western Australia, 1500km south to Perth, using canals, pipelines and ocean super tankers, or large synthetic bags towed behind tug boats.