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Byron Shire
May 13, 2021

Use of drinking water to irrigate sports fields a waste

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It is time to bite the bullet on water reuse, one of the strategies set out in the Rous Water review.

Richmond Valley Council told the community some time ago that when it put in the new pipeline from Woodburn to Evans Head to take effluent for treatment that it would put in a return pipeline to take treated water back to Woodburn for reuse on playing fields, etc.

On the strength of that commitment, the golf club spent hundreds of thousands on infrastructure for the reuse water and there were plans for irrigation of playing fields at Evans Head and, stupidly, for the Evans Head Memorial Aerodrome which doesn’t need irrigation.

In the case of the aerodrome, it was shown independently after pressure from the community that the proposal would have destroyed the drainage system, contaminated nearby waterways, and impacted on aviation use of the aerodrome, and so the incredibly dumb plan was abandoned.

Council also planned to dump the partially treated effluent in the Evans River but that was also opposed because the community was able to show through its ‘orange’ experiments that the discharge would wash back on to the main surfing beach. Talk about shitting in your own nest!

Council failed to put in the return pipeline to Woodburn which should have been done when the trench was open and so it has an excess supply of partially treated water, which a council engineer assured us was fit to drink, that it now discharges into a waterway that flows into Salty Lakes in Broadwater National Park.

It continues to add nutrients that could be removed with appropriate technology or a constructed wetland.

Rous and Richmond Valley Council need to revisit this wasteful use of a valuable resource so that potable water is returned to the Rous Water equation.

No point engaging the EPA as it is part of the problem. It is there to issue pollution licences and has a long history of failure to do its job, that is protect the environment.

Yes, there is lots of water available to meet future demand and a dam is not needed. We just need to make sure we have competent people making good decisions in our interest.

The money wasted by Richmond Valley Council and other agencies on dumb and often politically-motivated schemes sometimes reflecting sheer bloody-mindedness could have been used to much better effect to assure a future supply of potable water.

Rous seems to be on the right track, but it has not dealt with the much bigger and more potent issue of limits to growth and the carrying capacity of the north coast which was exceeded many years ago.

Whatever happened to the ‘Region of Villages’ study embraced by Richmond Valley Council initially but then dropped like a hot potato when Council found we had passed the limit to growth!

If you want to see if Richmond Valley Council has learned from its mistakes try this week’s business papers and plans to irrigate playing fields with drinking water!

Dr Richard Gates
, former member
 Evans Head and District Water Committee


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