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Smart Water Options – No Dunoon Dam

Channon Gorge, site of proposed Dunoon Dam. Photo David Lowe.

The new alliance, WATER Northern Rivers, will this morning launch its inaugural campaign for smart water options, as opposed to the construction of the proposed Dunoon Dam.

The launch coincides with the start of National Water Week, with its message ‘Let’s re-imagine our water future’.

The alliance is raising awareness that the dam proposal is out of touch with advice from water experts.

A recent report called All Options On The Table from Water Services Association of Australia (WSAA) describes dams as high-risk investments because they rely on rainfall in a changing climate.

The WSAA says we need a mix of strategies, including water efficiency. They say that for resilience in drought, it’s better if new supply is independent of rainfall, such as water recycling or desalination.

WATER Northern Rivers say it’s not just the WSAA report that points to the need to get past last century’s outdated ‘big dam’ thinking.

In August the NSW Productivity Commission released a green paper which recommended ‘all options on the table’ including new (non dam) water sources, and that we improve water system efficiency.

All options on the table

Members of WATER Northern Rivers say that with water experts saying we need all options on the table, they are launching their campaign promoting smart water options for our region.

They say the Dunoon Dam is last century’s thinking. Why would we destroy rainforest and Aboriginal Heritage for a destructive dam, when there are so many alternatives? Let’s get cracking on a water system fit for the 21st century.

The launch of the Smart Water Options – No Dunoon Dam campaign will take place today at the Lennox Head Cultural Centre from 10am.

The event will include speakers and a screening of drone footage of The Channon Gorge.


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8 responses to “Smart Water Options – No Dunoon Dam”

  1. gary says:

    WSAA is mostly made up of the major water utilities (e.g. Seqwater in Brisbane) which have large desalination plants and/or recycling plants and therefore of course these organisations will speak favourably of these technologies.

    Rous was heavily involved in water efficiency late last century, and adopted policies that included subsidised water tanks, leak detection, low flow devices, and subsidised front loading washing machines yet no significant water savings were identified from that work. It is unlikely that there is a large volume of water savings available from these technologies especially since all new houses must have water efficient devices when they are built.

    Ballina recently spent $100m on a recycling scheme to reduce demand, but Ballina has the highest per connection demand in the Rous region. While they may be SMART, water efficiency/recycling schemes cost a lot but don’t seem to deliver the promised water savings.

    The cost of these schemes also needs to be considered. Seqwater with its recycling and desal plants needs a letter from the Qld Govt to guarantee their solvency every year, and the SE Qld water authorities have water charges much higher than most Councils in the Rous region.

    ABS figures for Productivity in the Water, Gas and Electricity industry show a reduction in productivity of more than 40% in the last 20 years, so something needs to change because customers can’t afford another burst of cost increases like those that occurred in the last 20 years. Especially since these massive cost increases have been spent on projects that don’t seem to have increased the available water supply.

  2. Ken says:

    With what we now know, climate-change means we will receive much less rainfall in future and the government is determined to foist, ever greater levels of overpopulation on us, in a futile attempt prop up the failing world economy. Doesn’t it mean we should be storing as much as possible ? As this area at Dunoon has been set aside for decades and at the very least,a large body of water would be available for fire fighting, fishing and cheap drinkable town supply and would only mean inundating degraded, weed infested agricultural land, it does seem to be the obvious course of action.
    Cheers, G”)

    • Leandra says:

      As far as cheap water goes, it has been predicted that the dam would cause a 400% increase in water cost. No doubt this will be passed down the supply chain to users. The question arises is paying 4x the cost for water worth the security that the dam would supply? The WSAA paper stresses no- in expecting less rainfall how can we rely on water sources that depend on rainfall? We are living in a time critical to apply innovative and non-destructive approaches to resource management, each and everyone of us depends on this change. ~2% water used per household for drinking in our region, through implementing alternative water supplies for our other water uses, that leaves us with an extra ~98% potable water for drinking.

  3. John Revington says:

    The WSAA is Australia’s leading water industry body. So when it says dams are “often high-risk investments as they are reliant on rainfall and less resilient to climate change than other options” it would be foolish to ignore them.

    Prof Stuart White and the Institute for Sustainable Futures at UTS have vast experience and credibility in designing demand management systems. So when they say our region could delay or eliminate the need for a dam by introducing water efficiency programs, it would be foolish to ignore them.

  4. Annie Kia says:

    The key point made by water experts was that new dams are high-risk investments under conditions of variable rainfall. They say to be drought-proof, we need a system that has some sources independent of rainfall. We already have one rain-dependent source which is Rocky Creek Dam. Building another dam would put all our eggs in one basket, We need to increase efficiency, and if we need extra supply, we need sources that are independent of rainfall. This could be the deep aquifer on the Alstonville plateau, if managed well. If could also include rainfall-independent options such as water recycling or desalination.

    The document ‘All Options On The Table’ from Water Services Assoc. Australia lays this out. Since the Dunoon dam was first proposed many years ago, a new world of water options has become possible.

    For example, there’s a great case study from Warrnambool where, in a new housing development, they laid pipes to harvest all the water falling on the roofs, gathered it, treated it and added it directly to the water supply. This is an example of what is possible when we start thinking outside the box. This project to harvest water in this way solved numerous problems:
    *Harvested way more water than possible in the tiny tanks possible on those big new houses with little yard space
    *Avoided a host of regulatory barriers to do with water quality, what you can plumb it to etc
    *The new houses become part of the solution, not part of the problem
    *Side-benefit of capturing and diverting water that would otherwise be a problem during big downpours.
    * in an average year, the system harvests all the annual water needs of the properties it’s connected to. It’s now been extended to the big roofs of industrial sheds.

    Many other interesting and inspiring examples in the document All Options On The Table. Their key point is that a resilient system combines a number of options.
    It is the combination of technologies and sources that makes the system resilient.
    I recommend people read it.
    https://www.wsaa.asn.au/sites/default/files/publication/download/FINAL%20Urban%20water%20supply%20options%20for%20Australia.pdf

    • Ken says:

      Oh come on Annie,
      There isn’t a place in Australia with more consistent rainfall. Where do you think the water in the ” deep aquifer on the Alstonville plateau,” comes from? But if you really have you heart set on more drilling so be it . If we start thinking outside the box, I suggest you follow my example I no longer shower and I only drink Coopers, it doesn’t save burnt out old farm land and the smell is getting worse but I worry a lot less.Cheers, G”)

  5. jim says:

    Before dis’ing the WSAA and its policies , gary should perhaps look at its membership: which includes suppliers like Tweed Shire Council, Kempsey Shire Council, Lismore City Council, and of course. Rous County Council. Presumably the member councils support the solutions promoted by the WSAA.

    When it comes to productivity, Rous County Council seems have been happy with the WSAA submission to the NSW Productivity Commission during the recent Green paper process, as it made no separate submission.

    Gary is correct when he says something needs to change.

    What needs to change is how we approach and manage water supplies in these times of accelerating climate change, and unpredictability. This is recognised at a state and federal level.

    In fact, the NSW Productivity Commission, in its most recent Green paper [ http://productivity.nsw.gov.au/green-paper ] has said we need to concentrate on water efficiencies and water reuse, together with monitoring and refining scarcity pricing, to be truly productive. The single mention of a dam in the green paper is in the context of highly purified wastewater from the Southern Highlands being pumped and released into the Wingecarribee River to end up in Warragamba, as an example of innovative re-use.

    Rous may have been a leader last century in water efficiency, but its ( at the time ) forward-thinking policies were just not followed through sufficiently. Interestingly, the Productivity Commission also makes recommendations which suggest a thorough review of water-supply authorities and governance in the offing.

  6. Nanette Nicholson says:

    Excellent point, Ken, about having over-population foisted on us. A few other points to consider: 1. The Dunoon dam would be a dud in drought and could not be relied on to supply water. It has a tiny catchment relative to the existing Rocky Creek Dam. Unlike Rocky Creek Dam catchment, which is forested, protected and productive of high quality water, the Dunoon Dam catchment is farmland, much of it under macadamias with run-off of agricultural chemicals. The dam would fill only when Rocky Creek Dam overspilled, a fairly rare event. In drought, dry soil sucks up all showers and there is no run-off, whereas tanks can fill from a few showers. 2. In the recent fires it was not the availability of water bodies that restricted fire-fighting – it was the availability of helicopters. Those people fighting fires were using their own tank water – if they had assistance to install more tanks they would fight better. 3. The water would not be cheap – it would be at least 4 x the present cost. And it can be assumed that the currently estimated cost of building the dam would blow out. 4. You must not have visited the rainforest on the site. 5. The multiple ways of saving water, reusing water and fixing wastage make for a much more flexible, resilient and dependable supply of water that doesn’t rely on rain.

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