Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

{DESAL INSTEAD OF DAM?} {$200M Dam Too Costly at Present }; Options Put Forward to Secure Our Water Supply

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

{DESAL INSTEAD OF DAM?} {$200M Dam Too Costly at Present }; Options Put Forward to Secure Our Water Supply

Article excerpt

Byline: Alex Easton alex.easton@northernstar.com.au

A DESALINATION plant on the Northern Rivers coast- line could be used to secure the region's water supply as the local population explodes by about 70,000 people over the next 26 years.

Rous Water technical services director Wayne Franklin said a desalination plant was one of the options Rous Water would explore as it looked for alternatives to the expensive and politically difficult plan to build a new dam at Dunoon.

Rous Water is pressing ahead with the Dunoon dam plan for the moment. However, Mr Franklin said there were no guarantees the dam, which had featured at the centre of Rous' plans for the region's future water supply since 1995, would ever be built.

Environmental assessments for the 50-billion litre dam (Rocky Creek, the region's current mainstay, holds only 14 billion litres) were not complete and could yet rule it out of contention, he said.

At the same time, public and political opinion had tilted against dams - as the Queensland Government discovered when Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett ruled against the Traveston Dam last year.

Mr Franklin said the cost of a new dam which, on current prices could hit $200 million, was also beyond the current reach of the community, particularly while Rous recovered from the $40 million spent on its project to draw water from the Wilsons River near Lismore.

Rous had rechristened the Dunoon Dam Project as the Future Water Strategy, brought in a community-based project reference group and completely changed the project's focus.

"Rous Water has resolved to continue with the Dunoon Dam so we can build it if and when we need it, but at the same time we're doing everything else we can to avoid building it," Mr Franklin said.

That meant encouraging strategies to delay the need for a new major water supply. Those measures are working. Policies ranging from Lismore City Council's 'odds and evens' rule to control water usage; to Ballina Shire Council's grey water reuse policy in new housing developments; to the State Government's BASIX rules requiring new homes to include a water tank, had combined to reduce the amount of water used per person on the Northern Rivers. …

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