By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council forecasts that Stanthorpe will run out of urban water in early December this year without significant rainfall, while Warwick’s supply is forecast to last until December 2020 based on current low levels in Storm King, Leslie and Connolly Dams.
Mayor Tracy Dobie and senior council officers held a media conference at the Warwick council chambers on Tuesday of this week, 9 July, to provide an update on the current water crisis and what the council is doing to address it.
In Stanthorpe’s case, the council says short-term options could include sourcing water from Coolmunda and Glenlyon Dams, transported using “additional” infrastructure including standpipes and pumps, the cost of which the council says would be met by state agency SunWater.
Short-term options for Warwick include using bore water from Allora to supplement Warwick’s town water supply or temporarily cutting Allora off from the Warwick network and treating Allora’s bore water to drinking standard.
Other short-term Warwick options include carting water in from undisclosed locations in the Scenic Rim council area – chief executive officer David Keenan would not be drawn on specific Scenic Rim sources when asked by the Free Times – or piping water from Toowoomba via Clifton, should Toowoomba “decide to service Clifton”.
Toowoomba has access to water from Wivenhoe Dam via a $187 million pipeline completed in 2010.
For Warwick the council is also investigating the “installation of production bores in the Lyndhurst Lane area that could be connected to the Leslie Dam network supplying up to 5ML per day”.
The council has also gone as far as seeking to commence discussions with the Great Artesian Basin Authority “in relation to seeking access to the basin”.
In late June the council issued tenders for carting of water into and around the region from suitable contractors, with those tenders due to close on Thursday 25 July.
Both Warwick and Stanthorpe could also move to “emergency” level water restrictions which would see the daily ‘per person per day’ town water consumption target reduced from the current 120 litres to just 90 litres, but Cr Dobie this week would not give a timeframe for the introduction of such restrictions.
The council says Warwick residents as of the end of June were using around 145 litres per person per day and around 180 in Stanthorpe.
Cr Dobie told the media on Tuesday she was confident the State Government would meet the cost of any additional or temporary pumping and transportation costs for water sourced from outside the region.
She also said emergency water levies on ratepayers – a schedule of which was adopted at the monthly council meeting on Wednesday 26 June – would be an “absolute last resort” if the State Government did not come to the party and that the council also had money in reserve and in its “operational budget” to help meet emergency water supply costs.
Emergency levies could see a ‘standard’ or typical suburban home on town water in the region in Warwick, Stanthorpe, Allora, Yangan, Killarney and Wallangarra charged a $455.60 one-off levy, while ratepayers in Dalveen, Leyburn and Pratten would be charged $387.30.
Cr Dobie said many of the responses to the water crisis the current council is considering are “in response to actions not taken in the past”.
She also said the economic benefits from the “influx of visitors” to upcoming events such as Jumpers and Jazz in July would “outweigh” the extra use of water in the short-term and that it was “business as usual” for Warwick and Stanthorpe in terms of events.
Cr Dobie also said that “at this stage” council pools would be open this spring and summer.
Water from the Killarney off-stream storage is currently being used for roadworks across the region.
The June ‘Water Contingency Plan’ states that the council has identified a number of “illegal connections” on both the Connolly Dam and Storm King Dam pipelines.
The Free Times this week asked the council what action was being taken in relation to these illegal connections and received the following response from a spokeswoman –
“Council has been working through the connections to the raw water lines over the past few years,” the spokeswoman said.
“With the renewal of the Storm King Dam water main, there are no remaining illegal connections.
“Council officers have inspected the Connolly Dam line and have subsequently entered into agreements for supply of raw water with all known connections on this line.
“Properties using raw water are under the same water restrictions as residential properties, therefore are subject the same water use fines.”
The council says it has issued “several hundred” compliance notices to households and businesses across the region in relation to breaches of the current ‘extreme’ water restrictions and has so far issued two fines of $391, one to a local household and one to a local business, with fines set to increase to $399 per breach.
Compliance notices will be followed by meter readings a month after they are issued and if water restrictions are still being breached those households or businesses will receive fines.
• For more information on current water restrictions and how to save water in your home visit www.sdrc.qld.gov.au