DRY weather over summer may have helped speed up construction on the Macquarie Pipeline, but recent downpours have failed to fill Suma Park Dam above the 76 per cent mark.
More than 130 millimetres of rain has fallen in Orange since mid-February, but there have been no inflows into the dam’s key supply point, Summer Hill Creek, since November.
Orange City Council has seized on the data to again justify the $47 million pipeline, in a week when the project reached a major milestone, with 50 per cent of the 39 kilometres of pipes in the ground.
Recent rain brought flows at the pipeline’s extraction point on the Macquarie River up to 512 megalitres per day on Monday, while Summer Hill Creek remained a “collection of puddles”, according to Orange mayor John Davis.
With river flows well above the pipeline’s 108 megalitres per day trigger point, the pipeline would have been extracting 12 megalitres of water each day to top up the dam to 90 per cent.
“There have been no flows whatsoever in our Suma Park Dam ... it’s quite extraordinary,” Cr Davis said.
“I thought myself ... it would probably be overflowing.”
Overall the project is 25 per cent complete and “on schedule and on budget” to be finished by the end of the year once road work, electricity upgrades and pump stations are finished, Cr Davis said.
Despite past criticism, he declared the project to be no longer controversial and believedthe silent majority of residents had always supported the pipeline and looked forward to its completion.
Technical services director Chris Devitt says so far work on the pipeline has not hit any major hurdles with landholders or on the ground.
“The rain has held up some of the production work, but it will help with the restoration work,” he said.
Flows at the Macquarie River’s extraction point dropped back to 232 megalitres per day yesterday, according to the NSW Office of Water.
But Mr Devitt said the river was likely to “come up and stay up” following the recent rain in the catchment, which would have provided “ample opportunities” to use the pipeline.
The council’s data suggests the river would have reached the trigger point for pumping on 206 days in the past 12 months.
“The whole basis of the pipeline scheme is to fill the dam now before it [Suma Park Dam] is at 50 per cent,” Mr Devitt said.
“Who knows if today is the start of the next big drought.
“The amount of evaporation that happens over the top of the dam is quite significant.”