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November 29, 2021

Rous County Council Chair Keith Williams responds

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Rous County Council Chair Keith Williams. Photo David Lowe.

Rous County Council Chair and Ballina Cr Keith Williams has written to Echonetdaily in response to yesterday’s story with Annie Kia and Nan Nicholson about the proposed Dunoon Dam.

His comments and illustrations are reproduced below in full.

‘Groundwater has been Rous County Council’s preferred future water strategy since 2014 and been the subject of detailed investigations over the past few years,’ said Cr Williams.

Rous map supplied by Rous CC Chair Keith Williams.

‘Relying on mining millions of litres of groundwater from the sand aquifers under our coastal wetlands at Tyagara and Newrybar, the report has found poor quality water, expensive treatment and distribution costs and the potential for major environmental impacts.

‘Accordingly the Future Water Strategy 2060 has recommended the abandonment of this strategy with the exception of the immediate progression of one small scheme near Alstonville.

‘A second dam on Rocky Creek is now being recommended for further investigation because it is the lowest cost option for our region’s future water supply, costing some $250 million less than the next cheapest option, groundwater, on a ‘whole of life’ basis ($650m – $900m).

‘Much of this cost saving is in energy. A dam located at the top of the catchment uses gravity rather than electricity for its distribution.

Rous map supplied by Rous CC Chair Keith Williams.

‘The Rous County Council reports identify 57Ha of native vegetation in the dam footprint, some of which is identified as Big Scrub Rainforest remnant. Whether these ecological communities are unique to the site or are able to be offset by other regeneration works in the immediate catchment needs further detailed investigation and assessment.

‘Rous has already restored more than 200Ha in the buffer around the existing Rocky Creek Dam.

‘Nan Nicholson has undoubted rainforest expertise and I’m sure would have much to contribute to this assessment. Any decision to proceed with a dam still requires substantial investigations that will take some years.

‘Rous County Council has a long history of involvement in Reconciliation, providing avenues for Indigenous participation and recognition of Indigenous heritage.

Rous map supplied by Rous CC Chair Keith Williams.

‘With the greatest respect to the non-indigenous community, we will continue our discussions with the relevant Indigenous parties in private. We will not be providing a running public commentary on those discussions.

‘Rous County Council is here for the long term and we are planning and working accordingly.

‘We cannot ignore the impact of climate change over coming decades. We know it’s getting hotter and drier, that droughts will become more severe and more prolonged.

‘As we saw last October when Rocky Creek Dam fell 10% in a month, demand for water increases significantly when it’s hot and dry.

Rous map supplied by Rous CC Chair Keith Williams.

‘Rous supplies water to more than 100,000 people in urban areas and this demand will keep growing.

‘At our current rate of more than 500 new dwellings a year, the water supply will have to provide for 150,000 people within the next few decades.

‘The Future Water Plan has factored in a 40% reduction in demand from new dwellings due to recycled water and more water tanks.

‘But pretending that the region will cope with both a more hostile climate and substantial population growth simply with water efficiency measures, in my view, does this community a gross disservice.’

The Rous Future Water Project 2060 is currently on public display, with a decision due before the end of 2020.

Public comments are welcome, and can be made until the evening of Wednesday 9 September here.


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  1. I am struggling to understand why Keith Williams and Rous are choosing to ignore Prof Stuart White’s report. I think they are acting in good faith. But it’s they’ve been captured on a runaway train called Big Dam. The White report says there is a cheaper way to achieve supply-demand balance.
    I strongly encourage everyone to read this Brief Summary of it.
    And to take on board that Prof White is an expert on water efficiency. He and his team have worked with water authorities in California, Egypt, Oman and the Philippines, every mainland Oz state and territory, as well as Sydney Water, where they were able to able to add nearly 1 million people to their population without increased usage. I’m bewildered. Why would help Rous stop the Big Dam train? What would help them get off at a siding, and meet Prof White to seriously consider his proposal, especially since it is cheaper, creates jobs in retrofit, and reduces costs for business and industry?
    This is the Brief Summary. I’ll post the presentation slides below.


  2. I posted the Brief Summary of the White report ‘Rous Sustainable Water Program’ in a comment above, which I encourage everyone to read. Prof White is talking about an investment in systematic water efficiency. This involves an audit of every council long pipe, every facility (school, hospital, uni building, industry), and within these every faucet, appliance and policy. After this comes the retrofit by qualified tradespeople. Needless to say this kind of investment creates much needed jobs, supports small to medium enterprise, and reduces water costs for business and industry. This kind of investment was not analysed or costed by Rous. For this reason they don’t have a comparison for the dam.
    The link to Prof Stuart White’s slide presentation is here. I especially encourage people to look at the cost comparison between the eye-watering cost of the dam, and investment in water efficiency. Not only is the dam unnecessary, White says, it’s a financial risk: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1knun42rhXOPuOgImBz-VTunMQ3l-fiu7/view

  3. Hydrosphere’s map on page 113: “Figure 7: Potential Dunoon Dam catchment showing existing land use”… is false and grossly misleading to Councillors.

    The south-east basin, and mid-section along the creek and should all be GREEN (Riparian Rainforest). The blob of green in the north is the 158ha Big Scrub Flora Reserve, the other green bits should add up to more than 60ha, which is 40% of the size of the Big Scrub Flora Reserve. And, having a similar and possibly even higher World Heritage ecological value. (And much higher if you are a Koala, Platypus, Richmond Cod, or one of the other 43 endangered species.)

    Purified recycled water is the safe alternative to us each flushing our rainforest away. Forever.

  4. Yes, please tell me why Keith Williams you are not taking an experts report on this and why are you and Rous water trying to mislead the community with inaccurate mapping and non-disclosure of what this Mega-dam really will drown. Threatened species day yesterday- this area is a vital habitat for threatened species!

    Please read the above report prepared by a true expert who has worked on water systems globally. We have a real chance here to provide jobs, fix the broken system and provide future water without the colossal destruction of a dam.

  5. For far less money they could provide everyone with rainwater tanks galore but, of course, they can’t sell that water. Fixing the leaks doesn’t make them more money either.

  6. But , this dam was planned and decided on Forty years ago , the land has been purchased and has been held for decades, all the residents have been aware,so what is the fuss about? Any reversal of plans now would seem a little ad hoc and result in a lot of wasted effort and assets.
    I have difficulty seeing how “Platypus, Richmond Cod” would be adversely impacted, quite the reverse, and the millionaire neighbours will now have ‘water views’ that they have been anticipating for decades.
    This project would also provide easily accessible water for fire- fighting aircraft and recreational fishing, and guaranteed to revamp the tourism trade.
    I fail to see why, all of a sudden, this antagonism has been constructed. I guess some people just don’t give a Dam.
    Alternatively,The problem it seems is the increasing population. Stop importing them ! Covid 19 will take it’s toll so….
    I think we can comfortably predict a decrease in demand.
    Looks like Gaia’s got this in hand. Cheers, G”)


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