Do we want too much?
WFTAG celebrates $ 225 million for our water infrastructure finally allocated in the 2017 State Budget and matched by the Opposition.
Council and the state have declared the amount would fully fund Townsville’s water security with a duplicate pipeline.
WFTAG’s view of “full” water security is for a new pipeline and a new treatment plant totalling about $ 500 million.
Townsville has the first City Deal that promises intergovernmental, nonpartisan collaboration.
We now need the Federal Government to seal the deal with a grant ( not a loan) for another $ 225 million. This would provide transformative water security for Townsville with close to 200,000 residents already. We do not consider this to be too much to ask given decades of Brownsville restrictions and inaction.
Why does Townsville need a new water treatment plant?
In summer, our Douglas Treatment Plant runs at about 90 per cent of its full capacity, when there are no water restrictions and no rain. As the water level drops in Ross River Dam turbidity becomes a problem. Douglas plant can’t treat highly turbid water at the same rate as stored, settled water. When a “duplicate” pipeline is installed with increased supply, the old plant will, in a fairly short time, not have the capacity to treat it. What is Turbidity? Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness in water caused by large quantities of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye. Measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.
Can we expand or modify the Douglas Treatment Plant to treat an increased volume of turbid Burdekin water?
The short answer is no. The army owns the land at the back of the dam so there is no room for adjacent expansion.
A pipeline direct from the Burdekin River to the old plant is also not an option, as it cannot be upgraded cost effectively, to treat the extra water at a sufficient rate.
Gravity fed Burdekin water still requires costly, essential, turbidity treatment. By 2021, particularly in the high evaporation summer months, Townsville will use more water on a daily basis than Douglas can keep up with.
So what’s needed for both short and longer- term water security for our growing population?
A new hi- tech treatment plant will be needed at Toonpan ( behind Ross Dam) and connected to the second pipeline.
The Water Taskforce has proposed a two- staged pipeline completion starting with the TSV to the pumping station at Haughton Balancing and Storage within two years. Stage 2 plans an extension to Clare. There is no reference to a new treatment plant at this end which could be delayed anywhere up to 15 years.
WFTAG’s preferred proposal is for a new pipeline to start from Tom Fenwick ( an the existing Pump Station near Clare) direct to the new Toonpan plant and its design to start now.
There is no guarantee that adequate funding will “flow” for future works and costs will soar over time. The Toonpan Plant would provide critical back up for Douglas when maintenance is required.
It would also allow use of all the pumped water from the Burdekin, rather than losing < 30ML per day through seepage into the open channel at the back of Ross River.
WFTAG advocates bringing forward installation of Toonpan, as there is no back up if something major happens to the ageing Douglas treatment plant. With full failure, Townsville would, even at level 3 restrictions, have three days of treated drinking supply.
The second pipeline recommended by the Water Taskforce closely resembles the TCC duplicate but it needs some modification to the existing design. It’s not clear if some environmental impact issues ( flagged in the State’s 2017 Lower Burdekin Project Development Report) may delay the duplicate work.
Ultimately, council’s benchmarks for water security and demand management need to be specified so ratepayers know how new infrastructure will be put to optimal use.
Even with a gold- plated pipeline, it is local government who determines when and how much to pump. Our political leaders bear full responsibility to ensure the best outcome for Townsville’s residents, small businesses, the environment, visitors, investors and industry.
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