Between them, the very low level of Ross Dam, TCC's water restrictions (currently Level 3) and the continuing lack of rain focused unprecedented attention on Townsville's water security from 2015 onwards and particularly from 2016 after the city recorded its driest-ever year in 2015 (2016 was not much better). It seems that most people realise there is no single solution - that we will have to approach the problem on several fronts to fix it - but there is little agreement on priorities.
NQCC published four blog posts under the heading NQCC Water Security Series towards the end of 2016:
- Part 1: Townsville Water Discussion Paper (Gail Hamilton)
- Part 2: Water Wonderland or Pipe Dreams? (Vern Veitch, re Hell's Gate Dam)
- Part 3: Hell’s Gate Dam Forum (Maree Dibella for NQCC)
- Part 4: How will climate change affect Townsville’s water security? (Malcolm Tattersall)
A Case For a Floating Solar Farm in Townsville’s Ross River Dam (Elly Hanrahan) is not nominally part of the series but follows naturally from it.
Primary references for these articles include
- Department of Water and Energy Supply, ‘Regional Water Supply Security Assessment’, October 2014 https://www.dews.qld.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/224596/townsville-rwssa.pdf
- Map showing Townsville, the Burdekin Dam, Hell's Gate http://nqcc.org.au/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/hells-gate-ross-dam-burdekin-dam.png
- Malcolm Tattersall 'Townsville's record low rainfall in 2015' in the context of the last couple of decades' rainfall totals
- Bureau of Meteorology. ‘Australian climate variability and change – Trend maps’ http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/change/index.shtml#tabs=Tracker&tracker=trend-maps
- [no author] ‘Climate change in the Townsville-Thuringowa Region’ [Queensland Government, 2008] http://hardenup.org/umbraco/customContent/media/332_regionsummary-tt.pdf)
- Climate Change in Queensland Qld government (additional reference added Jan 2017; interactive map with regional projections.)
- Townsville Enterprise Ltd. Hell’s Gate Dam Opportunity Overview (pdf) (additional reference added Jan 2017)
- Townsville Enterprise Ltd. Hell's Gate Dam Overview (web page) (additional reference added Jan 2017)
Water For Townsville Action Group
Concerned residents led by Linda Ashton and Margaret Moon have established a large (nearly 5000 members) and active (dozens of posts per day) facebook group, ‘Water For Townsville Action Group’. Members of the group have raised all sorts of issues, e.g.
- Recycled water - only on sports fields and parks, or for domestic consumption as well?
- Water-saving tips
- Gardening tips for dry conditions
- Hell's Gate vs Burdekin Dam?
- Water costs and availability in Townsville compared to SEQ.
- Chronic inaction of all levels of government
Some of these were discussed in the NQCC series, of course; the discussion flows both ways.
Townsville City Council
The City Council is facing community unrest because of the present water shortages but does have interesting and useful information on the Water, Waste and Environment section of its site, including:
- Dam levels (Ross Dam on 14% as of 19.12.16, Paluma on 62%)
- Restrictions, with downloadable FAQs
- Water-saving tips
Their FAQs sheet says...
10. What about the pipeline to pump from the Burdekin Dam?
Even with the back-up plan of pumping from the Burdekin Dam, we’re still using too much water for the system to keep up. The current pipeline is capable of delivering around 130ML per day into the Ross Dam.
Without a significant drop in the amount of water we use, pumping from the Burdekin will not sustain our water supply. As a city we have to reduce our water use by more than half for any water being pumped from the Burdekin to be of use.
Pumping from the Burdekin is also expensive – it costs us $27,000 a day to pump on top of an annual allocation charge. The longer we can delay turning the pumps on, the better.
...but it doesn't actually say what is the trigger point for Level 4 restrictions. That figure is on this TCC Water Restrictions Policy pdf, with others which may be of interest.
Bureau of Meteorology
The BoM has useful (and sometimes worrying) resources, too, but it sometimes take a bit of digging to find them. Here is one of many different climate outlook pages, and it will lead you to others looking further ahead or providing more detail of particular regions. The January-March outlook has us experiencing slightly below-average rainfall and slightly above-average temperatures, which is not good news for our dam levels.
More reference material will be added to this page as it comes to hand.