LOOKING FORWARD: Rous Water employees Wayne Franklin and Robert Cawley near the site proposed for future Rocky Creek Dam expansion.
LOOKING FORWARD: Rous Water employees Wayne Franklin and Robert Cawley near the site proposed for future Rocky Creek Dam expansion. The Northern Star Archives

Rous Water lays out plan for region's future water supply

ROUS Water will today release its plan to meet demand for water across the region for the next 50 years.

On current consumption patterns, Rous Water predicts demand will outstrip supply in 2024 and by 2060 they will need to source an additional 6500 megalitres per year.

The Future Water Strategy has been four years in the making and examined an extensive range of options, considered the financial, social and environmental implications of each.

The document that will go on public exhibition in February for eight weeks outlines three main strategies to ensure our taps don't run dry.

  1. Water efficiency - a range of demand management measures to help reduce our daily demand for water. Since these were first introduced in the 1990s, average water consumption rates have dropped by 45%. The rates have flattened out in recent years. However Rous believes there are still significant savings to be found in certain areas including parks and public spaces, non-residential connections, more households using efficient showerheads, water tanks and dual-flush toilets, and also in reducing the amount of water lost through leakage in the distribution network.
  2. Groundwater - increased use of groundwater will be investigated as the primary new water source for Rous Water. Studies have shown groundwater could provide "reliable and high-quality water supplies throughout the year with relatively low construction and operations costs". Existing bores at Woodburn and on the Alstonville Plateau will first be assessed, with other sites around Dunoon and Byron Bay to undergo exploratory testing and brought online as demand increases.
  3. Water re-use - described as "indirect re-use of wastewater", Rous will investigate a process of "advanced treating" water from wastewater facilities and then releasing it back into the environment upstream from existing water supplies, such as a dam or groundwater aquifer, and then treating it again through existing facilities.

Key figures

  • Water use is expected to increase from 11,000 megalitres per year in 2013 to nearly 16,000 megalitres per year by 2060 as population grows.
  • Water supply is expected to fall by around 34% over the next 50 years due to changes in climate and rainfall.
  • Rous has about 10 years to ensure water security.
  • To allow for planning and development, decisions on future water sources will be needed by around 2018.

Second dam at Dunoon is put on hold

ROUS Water will put on hold any further progress on the proposal for a second dam at Dunoon.

A new dam site was first identified in 1995 and a significant amount of land has been purchased by Rous Water in the identified area since that time.

However, when considered against other options in the Future Water Strategy, Dunoon Dam was considered to have significant cultural heritage, ecological and cost constraints.

"Therefore, the Future Water Strategy has identified and prioritised other water sources ahead of the Dunoon Dam proposal," the draft report says.

"Rous Water will preserve the Dunoon Dam proposal until groundwater and water re-use supply options have been fully investigated and are better understood.

"This is likely to be around 2018.

"Once these studies are completed, Rous Water will be in an improved position to determine whether to continue to maintain the proposed Dunoon Dam site."

Public consultation on the matter will run from February to March 28.

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