Providing water for the future
AS ROUS Water reconsiders the region's future water supply options in light of growing arguments against the proposed Dunoon Dam, chair Phil Silver says restrictions on population growth advocated by environmentalists are not an option.
"We are a county council and it's our job to provide safe, secure water - if the growth plans of the four member councils were to be arbitrarily stopped because of the lack of water then we would've failed, but we are nowhere near that point, nor are we anywhere in the near future," Mr Silver said.
"Our sustainable yield well exceeds our annual consumption,however we do have to cope with the vagaries of growth and climate variation but I can assure you that I, and all the councillors and employees, take this responsibility very, very seriously."
Rous Water announced last week that the discovery of significant Aboriginal sacred sites in the inundation area of the proposed Dunoon dam added to the growing list of ecological, environmental and cost concerns with the project.
While prominent environmentalists have renewed calls for curbs on growth to deal with future water shortfalls, Mr Silver said that while the council had yet to meet to discuss the latest developments, there were plenty of other options, first being to re-assess the proposed dam's viability.
"The project reference group could have recommended ultimately that the dam wasn't viable anyway in terms of cost and environment," he said.
"But I understand they want to re-investigate the raising of the existing dam wall (at Rocky Creek Dam) and other alternative sources."
While Mr Silver stressed he was just setting out the options rather than doing the reference group's work, he effectively ruled out desalination plants as a viable option.
"Given our rainfall and our population I think there are many, many options you'd pursue before desalination," he said.
Local rainforest botanist Nan Nicholson - also a member of Rous Water's project reference group and a long-time opponent of the dam - said that unchecked economic and population growth would have to stop for a host of environmental reasons, including water supply.
"It is clearly untenable … what I would like to see is that we start taking control of growth ourselves instead of forcing nature to do it for us down the track in catastrophic ways," Ms Nicholson said.
"As much as people don't like to admit that growth can't continue on a finite planet, when you think about it it's quite obvious, the maths doesn't stack up; we have to stop growing some time," Ms Nicholson said.
Dorroughby environmentalist Paul Recher agreed growth should be curbed, even though he originally supported the proposed dam.
"I was in favour of the dam because of what the site would have offered for wildlife enhancement as well as stopping the deterioration of Rocky Creek below the spillway, but I am equally thrilled they've found the sacred sites. What further excites me is 'what are they going to do now?'," he asked.