PHOTO: Council’s water treatment facility in Yarran St, Coonamble.
ONE of the challenges facing Coonamble Shire Council as managers of the town water supplies to each of the district’s communities, is ensuring that water is available where and when it is needed, especially during dry times.
At their October meeting last Wednesday 13 October, councillors considered a draft Drought Management Plan that is expected to assist staff and customers to manage the council’s water supply during future droughts.
The Plan includes “drought triggers” that will enable council to impose water restrictions.
For Coonamble township, the triggers are based on demand levels on the water treatment plant and in Gulargambone by the rate at which council’s pumps can extract water from low yield bores.
Quambone does not have triggers due to their small population size.
Councillors were advised that the main problem for council’s water management is that, during hot weather and drought, the capacity of the town’s water treatment plant is simply not sufficient to meet the high level of demand.
“We find ourselves in a strange and difficult position,” General manager Hein Basson told the Council.
“Despite having a good supply of water, being on the artesian basin, our infrastructure can only provide a certain amount of water in the hot summer months, and the moment we have a drought the demand is much higher.”
Mr Basson explained that Coonamble has a significantly higher use of water than most other towns our size.
According to the report, Coonamble’s average daily water use sits at 757 litres per day per person while the Australian average is between 200 and 300 litres per day per person.
“We are concerned that water is getting lost in the network and we’re not aware of where it goes,” he said.
“Also, some people are used to using an extraordinary amount of water for household and general purposes.”
“The amount of water is probably double what is being used by other communities elsewhere,” he said.
While councillors suggested our hot, dry climate as the reason, Mr Basson emphasised that our usage is significant even compared to other hot, dry communities.
A particular concern for council is the amount of “non-revenue water” – water that is used but unaccounted for and not paid for – in each of the shire’s three towns.
In a scoping study conducted in 2020, non revenue water accounted for 33% of water use in Coonamble, 38% in Gulargambone and 28% in Quambone.
The study identified that more would need to be done to analyse the impacts of leakage, water theft and usage by unmetered customers.
It is hoped that finding and reducing these causes, especially theft and leakage, will ultimately reduce the pressure on the water treatment plant.
“About ten per cent is probably acceptable,” Mr Basson told the meeting. “Around 40% is way above.”
The Plan also spells out the legal penalties that apply to anyone found guilty of water wastage.
‘A person who wilfully or negligently wastes or misuses water from a public water supply or causes any such water to be wasted is guilty of an offence’ with a current maximum penalty of up to $4440.
Councillors voted to put the Draft Drought Management Plan on public display for 28 days and, if no submissions are received, to adopt the plan at the next available opportunity.