By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council says it has secured emergency water allocations for Stanthorpe from Glenlyon Dam in Tenterfield Shire and Coolmunda Dam at Inglewood, with Stanthorpe’s Storm King Dam expected to run out of water in at least five months without significant rain.
Mayor Tracy Dobie addressed the media today, Thursday 16 May, during a meeting in Warwick with Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh and representatives of Tenterfield Shire.
The meeting of mayors was to discuss future water supply security for the Darling Downs and Tenterfield regions, including a plan to pipe water from the Clarence River system in New South Wales which has been talked about for decades.
While the meeting was a positive example of local government working collaboratively on planning for the future, the immediate water situation remains top of mind for Southern Downs residents, with Leslie and Connolly Dams in Warwick and Storm King Dam at Stanthorpe at close to critically-low levels.
Tenterfield Shire has around 160 days of urban water left in storage.
Cr Dobie assured residents of all towns and villages in the Southern Downs council region that “no-one will run out of water, it just comes at a cost”.
The mayor said water for Stanthorpe would be carted by truck from Glenlyon and Coolmunda Dams if necessary, and that the council also has a 600 megalitre state allocation of underground water from nearly 30 wells and bores on council land across the region, which would need to be “re-commissioned” and equipped.
The council has also not ruled out the option of bringing bulk water into the region by rail from elsewhere, such as Brisbane’s Wivenhoe Dam.
Council consultants are currently undertaking aerial and underwater surveys of Leslie, Connolly and Storm King Dams to determine silt levels and the true “dead storage” level of each of the dams.
With the council issuing fines to householders for breaching current ‘extreme’ water restrictions the Free Times asked Cr Dobie what was being done to manage water use by local businesses.
The mayor said one major local business had already curbed water use by 60 per cent but would not reveal which business it is.
She said the council was “working closely” with commercial high water users such as the John Dee export beef abattoir to reduce water usage and to complete “water efficiency plans” as soon as possible.
The mayors today discussed the long talked-about idea of constructing a pipeline from a potential new 86,000 megalitre dam on the Maryland River in Tenterfield Shire near Liston east of Stanthorpe.
Such a dam would receive water pumped from the Clarence River system in NSW and would be gravity-fed to the Darling Downs via a pipeline from the dam directly into the Condamine River at Elbow Valley east of Warwick.
The plan has been mooted since the early 1990s.
Meanwhile the Federal Labor Opposition has promised $42 million to help construct the proposed Emu Swamp Dam at Stanthorpe if it wins office at the federal election this Saturday 18 May.
That matches funding promised verbally by the Liberal/National Coalition and represents around half the cost of Emu Swamp Dam, to which Granite Belt primary producers have committed $26 million.
The Queensland Government would have to meet the remainder of the cost and to date has not made any funding commitment.
The Southern Downs Regional Council’s position on Emu Swamp Dam is that local ratepayers should not have to meet any of the cost.