Do we want too much?

Townsville Bulletin - - OPINION -

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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