THERE has been much spin about Orange City Council’s proposed Macquarie River to Orange pipeline being the answer to Orange’s future water security and it is time to put this ill-conceived and costly proposal into perspective.
The principle behind the pipeline is to regularly harvest water from the Macquarie River and pump this via a pipeline into Orange’s Suma Park Dam. Pumping costs and ongoing maintenance of this infrastructure is equivalent to Orange ratepayers buying water to top up storage levels in Suma Park Dam. This has been lauded as the way to drought proof the city, keeping Suma Park Dam near to full and spilling more regularly at great cost to ratepayers.
By supplementing storage levels from the Macquarie River and keeping the dam near to full, much of the dam’s free natural catchment runoff will inevitably spill over Suma Park Dam’s spillway and down to the Macquarie River.
This is like me regularly buying water to keep my house tank full knowing that any runoff from my roof catchment will flow out my tank’s overflow and down the paddock. A ludicrous waste of money.
Based on Orange’s recent annual water consumption Suma Park Dam alone holds around four years’ supply. As the reservoir is drawn down for Orange’s water consumption free storage space becomes available to capture further natural runoff at no cost to ratepayers. If the dam spills within any four year period, water pumped from the Macquarie River into the dam will simply spill over the dam wall back down to the river again.
Orange City Council information available for the last 18 years shows that Suma Park Dam has spilled during 10 of those 18 years. In the seven years prior to 2002 Suma Park Dam spilled in six of those seven years. The dam has spilled in each of the last three years running, spilling over almost constantly for the past two years and currently remains at 100 per cent.
There is a logical solution for Orange to secure its water needs well into the future beyond the short-term horizons currently being considered by Orange council and which can have broader regional benefits as well. That is to tap into Burrendong Dam which when combined with Windamere Dam upstream holds 69 times Orange’s total combined water storage capacity. Burrendong Dam when at zero per cent still contains water (30,000 ML termed dead storage) equivalent to supply Orange for around six years.
There would not be a need to pay the high cost of drawing water continuously from this water storage unless there was a need, but Orange would have the water security it needs well beyond all of council’s water security options currently being considered.
Council claims that a connection to Burrendong Dam would be too expensive and government funding is not currently available. The fact is that such a project could be built in stages with the first stage being easily funded from moneys already committed.
With Orange’s current total combined water storages sitting at around five years’ supply there is time to embark on a staged project which would deliver a more cost-effective long-term solution to Orange’s water needs and provide broader regional benefits as well.
The state and federal governments will not be applauded for wasting valuable revenue and funding the cheapest option on the table in a vain attempt to be seen to be doing something for the Orange electorate, or for burdening Orange ratepayers with the exorbitant cost of buying water via the cost of pumping from the Macquarie River (including ongoing maintenance costs) which will inevitably spill over Suma Park Dam’s wall to flow back downstream and into the Macquarie River again.
It is incumbent on the state and federal government to demonstrate strength in leadership and be fiscally responsible when funding proposals which have seriously questionable benefits to the community.
I call on all levels of government to withdraw support for such a waste of public monies.
Summer Hill Creek