HARSH water restrictions could have been avoided and the city’s dams would have stayed above 50 per cent if the Macquarie Pipeline had been operating during the drought, according to figures released by Orange City Council.
Long-term modelling produced for a hydrology and water security assessment, as part of the project’s Environmental Assessment, strengthens the case for the pipeline says mayor John Davis, debunking claims there were little or no flows in the Macquarie River for much of the last decade.
“Why we’re very excited is that the figures and facts that our staff and consultants supplied to us as councillors [more than two years ago] were very conservative... within this report they’re a lot stronger,” he said.
Cr Davis said the latest findings also revealed electricity charges for the pipeline’s operation would be less than expected.
Council spokesman Nick Redmond said initial operating costs of up to $85 per water rate notice had been reduced to $50 to $55.
Cr Davis said he hoped the data modelled across more than 100 years of information would sway opponents of the project.
“I don’t think there is any doubt or any negativity in regards to Orange has to have water security,” he said.
“We need water ... there’s only one option on the table.”
He said the $40million state and federal government funding for the $47million project only comes once in a lifetime.
“If this project doesn’t get up nothing’s going to happen,” he said.
“Residents have only got to invest $7million thereabouts.”
He says the report will go to the state government in the next month.
“It will be really up to them to look at it and see what the results are but from our point of view we’re really positive,” he said.
The report’s author Geolyse environmental engineer Martin Haege said it was important to manage river ecology and basic access rights for people downstream.
“We did a lot of modelling of the Macquarie River catchment ... and then we used that data to find out how operating the pipeline under the proposed rules would benefit Orange in terms of increasing it’s secure yield,” he said.
Council technical services director Chris Devitt said the assessment was a significant step in developing the project, which would include 10 or 12 sub-consultancies.
“We always said we needed to do the hard work to prove the project,” he said.
“The community then has the opportunity to look at those assessments and comment.”