Is it time to raise the Fitzroy barrage?
RAISING the Fitzroy Barrage to increase water storage is back on the agenda for Rockhampton Regional Council.
The move comes as Central Queensland endures a long, dry spell but that was not the reason behind the new push which was revealed at last week's council meeting.
Chair of the council's Water Committee, Neil Fisher, said the council was exploring options for the region's long-term water security, to ensure supply could meet demand well into the future.
"We have been working on the feasibility of range of options since the Regional Water Supply Security Assessment we carried out with the then Department of Energy and Water Supply took place in 2015,” Cr Fisher said last week.
"One of those options is to raise the barrage gates up to a maximum of 0.5m, which could increase the storage volume by 10,000ML (to a usable level of 60,000ML). We are in the very early stages of this idea.
"Approval discussions with the State Government, developing design plans, and community engagement would all need to happen before we get anywhere near to a final decision on this.
"Whether it is this option or something else entirely, (the) council will continue to think of the future needs of our region, and ensure our water infrastructure can meet those demands.”
One main driver behind the proposal was recognition there was finally an appetite to develop water storage in northern Australia when there had not been much enthusiasm a decade ago.
"We probably haven't been in this space because there hasn't been government support, but now if the business case stacks up and can be proved to be viable (we feel) there will be support,” Cr Fisher said.
"There's still a lot more work to do but I think it's the environment to actually exploring its (potential). We've got to see if what transpires from these studies is good enough to go to the next stage.”
He said Rockhampton had "very good” members of parliament at federal and state level in Capricornia MP Michelle Landry, Rockhampton MP Barry O'Rourke and Rockhampton-based Senator Mat Canavan.
He said community consultation would be a key factor.
The barrage is the primary source of water supply for the Rockhampton reticulation network and owned by Fitzroy River Water, a commercialised business unit of the RRC.
Under this scheme the total volume for the Fitzroy Barrage is 74,400ML with a usable volume of 49,850ML (i.e. 24,550 ML is not available for use or diversion).
Urban water for Rockhampton (including Yeppoon and adjacent areas) accounts for 81 per cent of the total water allocation. Rockhampton holds a high priority allocation of 50,000ML.
The 2017 Building Qld business case for the lower Fitzroy River infrastructure project found that the Fitzroy Barrage was heavily reliant on seasonal inflows from the Fitzroy River, in particular the occurrence of annual wet season events, to maintain continuity of supply.
"Water levels in the Fitzroy Barrage can fall quite rapidly and in a prolonged drought, at current levels of demand, the storages could fall from full to empty in about 16 months,” the report said.