THE move to water restrictions has come with a lot of criticism. Bathurst Regional Council's director of Engineering Services, Darren Sturgiss, has now responded to the most commonly made statements regarding Bathurst's water situation. You can read his answers below.
We are releasing too many new estates.
Council has seen since 2008 our overall water growth, in terms of consumption, has not grown at all in comparison to the growth of population. There are several reasons for that.
- The basics regulations that are required for new dwellings, which have made them more water efficient.
- We've tended to find that the 1000 square metre block size that was quite predominant 10 years ago and prior to that is certainly shrinking; you'll find a lot more dwellings smaller that have a limited amount of space dedicated to backyards. That has reduced the overall requirement for irrigation and watering of gardens and lawns.
We simply need to raise the dam wall.
It's not as easy as that, we wish it was. The dam itself was originally designed to be raised and that has been done. What that means is, for it to be raised further, the spillway is no longer anywhere near adequate. It would need to be enlarged or a secondary spillway needs to be installed. The cost of doing that, let alone the dam wall itself, is going to be significant. I won't put a price on it, but the dam wall raising was $30 million 20 years ago.
Council has not installed the infrastructure to deal with dry times.
In terms of keeping up with dry times, for our parks operation, for instance, we've actually installed a series of smart meters and increased our capacity to monitor [council's] own water consumption. That is able to be done remotely for our major parks. We are doing the best we can to be more efficient with our own parks.
It's okay for council to keep their gardens green, while ours are dying.
We have certainly backed down our water use within our parks and other facilities. We also need to balance in the community wellbeing with that too, so it is a difficult position to be in. There will be some hard decisions for council to make when we go to level four restrictions, with respect to what we do with our parks and gardens.
Council should have put water restrictions in much sooner.
The water restrictions were imposed in November last year, which is traditionally when our water use increases from the winter months. We were certainly aware of the need to consider that in the winter period, however our water use in winter generally ... has not been any different. Water restrictions or not, last year in winter would not have really made a mark of difference to our water use, so we made the decision to implement water restrictions when it was going to be needed.
Note that, during that time, we were already advertising our water-wise message, which we've done so for over 10 years.
The irrigators are using too much water.
Council does not have control over irrigation at all. Licences for those purposes are issued by the State Government. We don't have access to that data with regard to water use. There is a cease to pump rule for irrigators, which currently sits at 22 per cent of the Chifley Dam level, and that is set by the state, not council.
The irrigators over this summer have been very aware of our water needs and the need to try to utilise that resource the best that we all can. We work well together with the implementation of an east/west system, which is like our odds and evens water, to try to balance out the releases from the dam.
We should use the water from Winburndale Dam.
The Winburndale Dam is significantly smaller than Chifley Dam; it's approximately a seventeenth of the size. There is a pipeline that leads from Winburndale Dam to Bathurst. It was originally constructed when the dam was built in the 1930s and that comprises still of sections of wood stave pipe. That means it is a gravity-fed pipeline and is unable to be pressurised by way of a pump. That line has a capacity of three megalitres a day and currently in Bathurst we are using 15 or thereabouts.
In addition to that, we have a licence for use of water issued by the State Government for 1000 megalitres per annum. We currently use that 1000 litres per annum and there are other licences issued to other parties for the remainder of the water to the full capacity of the dam. There really is limited availability to increase our current licence.
However, the intent is if we go to level four restrictions ... we will the reduce the water use from our raw water Windburndale supply from our parks and gardens and then decant that in through our water filtration plant. We are also going through water quality testing at Windburndale Dam given it has always been used as raw water, so we are making sure we are going to be right to use that water.