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Byron Shire
August 14, 2022

Toonumbar Dam underutilised for Casino’s town water supply

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Toonumbar Dam. Photo Ayesha Joy Clifford.

WATER Northern Rivers Alliance has proposed that Richmond Valley Council engages with the state government in exploring the use of the currently underutilised Toonumbar Dam for Casino’s town water supply.

Spokesperson Nan Nicholson says the Toonumbar Dam, 36km NW of Casino, holds 11GL of water. ‘That is three-quarters of the volume of Rocky Creek Dam. Toonumbar’s catchment of 98km² is almost three times larger than the 38km ² catchment of Rocky Creek Dam. It is five times larger than the catchment of the controversial Dunoon Dam proposal.’

WaterNSW, in a report in 2018 (20 Year Infrastructure Options Study Rural Valleys), says: The lack of utilisation [of Toonumbar dam] has resulted in high water levels in the dam all year round and high operational surplus due to increased frequency of spills. Water NSW views this as a significant underutilisation of existing assets.

‘The 2020 Draft Regional Water Strategy for the Far North Coast agrees,’ says Nicholson. ‘It suggests linking Toonumbar Dam to Casino via a number of connection opportunities to improve the resilience of town water supplies.’

Dams are not a silver bullet

Nicholson says that while dams are not a silver bullet and are not, on their own, a defence against drought, this option should be thoroughly investigated before a new dam is initiated. ‘Toonumbar Dam could relatively quickly provide additional water to Casino and would add resilience and diversity to the supply. It would also help to avoid the large upfront expense, the destruction of cultural and environmental heritage and the ongoing social division if the proposed Dunoon dam went ahead.

‘The current water sharing plan for Toonumbar does not include use for town water. This would have to be addressed and the stakeholders who are partially using the water at present would have to be consulted.

‘All groups involved in trying to solve the water crisis in this area agree that All Options on the Table is a good starting point.  WaterNSW recognises that “any successful strategy to improve the situation on the North Coast is likely to involve a combination of asset, financial and regulatory improvements, and as such, is working towards investigating these options”.’

‘WATER Northern Rivers invites those concerned about the future of water in this region to have an open mind about all the options, and to investigate more the underutilised Toonumbar dam.’

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