Ballina Councillor and Chair of Rous County Council, Keith Williams, says he is setting the record straight about the pro dam campaign that claims it will lower costs and prices for water if the proposed dam at Dunoon and The Channon goes ahead.
Cr Williams says the claims are deceitful. ‘I am concerned that this group is conning people into signing a petition based on information that is demonstrably false.
‘Building a dam at Dunoon will cost at least $150 million more in the next 10 years than the recommended mixed source strategy.
Cr Williams says that financed by long term loans this will cost the community an additional $6 million more per annum, a 25% increase on current costs. ‘This does not include a figure for the loss of 52Ha of koala habitat, 33Ha of Big Scrub Rainforest (5% of all that remains) and state significant Indigenous heritage.’
Cr Williams says the alternative path charted by Rous uses a variety of smaller schemes to add capacity when needed. ‘It is adaptable to changes in technology, costs, demand and climate.’
Pro-dam case based on flawed accounting
Speaking on behalf of WATER Northern Rivers, The Channon resident Nan Nicholson says that the pro-dam case based on flawed accounting. ‘The Dunoon Dam would cause higher water rates for the next 40 years.
‘The claim that the Dunoon Dam would be less expensive than other options is based on misleading figures. When Rous calculated the marginal cost of water from the dam, it assumed that all its water would be used. This is an erroneous assumption. It is the amount of water that is used, not the total capacity, that determines the cost per megalitre.
Mrs Nicholson says that using the total volume of the dam to calculate cost gives an unrealistically low estimate of the cost of water from the Dunoon dam. ‘The bulk of the dam expenditure would occur in the first year or so when the dam is being constructed. By comparison, the spending on other alternatives is spread out, going up in steps as new water sources are required. For example, several larger projects – Tyagarah and Newrybar – will not be undertaken for decades.
A striking picture
‘The striking picture that emerges is that the financial costs of the dam exceed the preferred Rous scenario in every year until 2060. This extra cost will have to be borne by the current generation of ratepayers for the next 40 years. In other words, the costs and therefore water rates, would be higher for the next 40 years under the dam proposal than they would be under Rous’ preferred option of diverse sources.’
The Alliance feel that supporters of the proposed dam are ignoring the likelihood that the final cost would be significantly higher than Rous’ $220 million estimate. Jim Richardson of WATER Northern Rivers says that In its draft National Water Reform 2020 report, the Productivity Commission says the cost of major dams routinely blows out by between 49% and 120%.’
Quoting Prof Stuart White (UTS Sydney), and his submission to Rous’s 2020 water plan, Mr Richardson says that Prof While argues that the dam is unnecessary. ‘He says it would increase the cost of water significantly, and it would run the risk of becoming a very expensive “white elephant”.
System-wide efficiency program is the cheapest option
‘White says that a system-wide efficiency program is the cheapest option. He argues that if used in conjunction with contingency planning, a water efficiency program could defer or eliminate the need for a new water source in the region. He says such a program could also create local employment, make the Northern Rivers a leading hub for water efficiency innovation and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
‘I believe Prof White, not the unsubstantiated claims of the dam apologists,’ says Jim Richardson.
Cr Williams says the analysis presented by Rous in the Future Water Plan shows that while the dam is cheaper on a whole of life (80 yrs) basis, it takes until 2065 to break even with the alternative. ‘The dam requires this generation to massively overspend on a single strategy. In short, building the dam will push up water prices substantially. Claiming otherwise is nothing but a big dam lie.’