By Jeremy Sollars
The Southern Downs Regional Council says it is “working closely” with the Queensland Government and Seqwater on a proposal to run a pipeline from Toowoomba to Warwick to supply Warwick with emergency water when Leslie Dam runs dry, forecast by the council to happen in “mid to late 2020”.
But details on the potential timing of the project – and whether such a pipeline could or would be in place by the middle of next year at the earliest – remain scant.
Southern Downs councillors at their December meeting held on Wednesday of this week, 18 December, were told by chief executive officer David Keenan that no ‘heads of agreement’ is currently in place with the government or with Seqwater in relation to the possible project.
In late November Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced a $1 million ‘feasibility study’ into a potential pipeline running from Toowoomba’s Cressbrook Dam to Warwick.
Such a pipeline would allow access to water from Brisbane’s Wivenhoe Dam, which Toowoomba already uses via a $187 million pipeline from Wivenhoe to Cressbrook constructed in 2010.
Wivenhoe Dam is in turn connected to 11 other dams forming the South East Queensland ‘Water Grid’ which is managed by Seqwater.
Seqwater has been charged with delivering the report on the feasibility of the Toowoomba-Warwick pipeline to the Queensland Government by April next year.
At this week’s December council meeting – the last general meeting for 2019 – Mr Keenan told councillors three meetings had so far been held between the council and the Queensland Government on the Toowoomba-Warwick pipeline but other than saying the negotiations were “on track” said the council had “no comment” at this time on the details.
The council has likewise to date released only limited details of its plans to ensure Warwick has an emergency water supply should Leslie Dam run dry without significant rainfall in the coming months.
Options the council has publicly stated it is looking into include existing bore water supplies in the Allora area and from the former Rosenthal Shire bores just outside Warwick at Gray Lane off the Warwick-Allora Road, and sourcing water from Killarney.
Emergency level water restrictions for the Southern Downs council area of 80 litres per person per day came into effect yesterday, Thursday 19 December, as the council prepares to commence full-scale carting of water to Stanthorpe from Warwick’s Connolly Dam.
Stanthorpe’s Storm King Dam is expected to fully deplete sometime within the next fortnight.
“YOU WON’T RUN OUT”…
In November Premier Palaszczuk said “while water supply is a particular concern for a number of communities, I will not let Queensland families run out of drinking water”.
“We have already committed $2.4 million for infrastructure and $800,000 per month to transport water to Stanthorpe,” the Premier said.
“With more than 15,000 residents and businesses depending on Warwick’s local water supply, carting water is not a practical option.
“Leslie Dam is down to less than 6 per cent capacity and it’s estimated that Warwick has a maximum of 14 months of supply based on the current predictions of below average rainfall.
“A pipeline from Wivenhoe Dam to Cressbrook Dam already exists to augment Toowoomba’s water supply in times of drought.
“It makes sense to now explore whether it is feasible to extend the supply network to Warwick.
“By linking Warwick through Toowoomba to the South East Queensland Water Grid, we could significantly improve supply security to the city and those who depend on it.”