HUGE PLAN: Drought spurs fight to utilise untapped resource
FOUR councils have united to capitalise on an untapped resource they say will help secure Warwick's water for decades and make a "profound difference” to the potential of the region.
Mayor Tracy Dobie joined Toowoomba Mayor Paul Antonio, Western Downs Mayor Paul McVeigh and Tenterfield Shire councillor Gary Verri in Warwick yesterday to discuss a plan to secure an allocation of water from the Clarence River in NSW.
Cr Dobie said a pipeline would be used to move the water into Queensland using gravity, which could then be flowed through the region in a variety of ways.
It could flow into the Condamine River at Elbow Valley, a new dam could be built to store the water or more pipelines could be built to distribute the water throughout the Southern Downs and further afield.
While all the water that currently flowed down the Condamine River was already allocated, Cr Dobie said this was not the case for the Clarence River.
"If you look at the Clarence there's only a small percentage that is allocated out for urban and industrial use and the rest goes out to sea,” she said.
The plan is not a new one - it has been around since the 1980s.
Cr Antonio said the push for the plan to be put into action had intensified given the "trouble” Warwick was in with water.
The Warwick water supply is forecast to run out by mid-next year while Stanthorpe has enough water to last another five months, if there is no rain.
Cr Dobie said if an allocation from the Clarence River was approved, feasibility studies and business cases would need to be created to assess the water distribution options.
"If it stacks up and the price of the water is acceptable, will residents be able to pay for how much the water will cost?” she said.
"It does take a long time but you have to put steps in motion.”
The plan is being touted as a way for the Southern Downs to achieve long-term water security and the councillors are asking the State and Federal Governments to get on board.
Cr Dobie said the water would give the council options, such as providing reticulated water to other areas in the region.
With the Federal Government talking about plans to develop regions, such as decentralising government departments and settling migrants, then more water would be needed for regions to be viable, she said.
"I know that our water storages have been to low levels before but I don't want us to have to go through what we're going through now while we're waiting for rain to be our solution,” Cr Dobie said.
"We need water to be in storage for every possible situation.”
While the councillors at yesterday's meeting did not pinpoint a cost for the project, they admitted it would be expensive.
But Cr Antonio said the project was about securing water for the future.
"If we were to get that water it would make a profound difference to the potential of this region,” he said.
Cr McVeigh said all the councils involved in the meeting were focused on growth but the missing ingredient was water. "We've looked at it many times but what we need to make sure is we don't drop it if it rains,” he said.
Cr Antonio said the next step was to advocate to the governments after the election.