Desalination plant to go ahead
PLANS for a desalination plant on the Bellingen River will move ahead despite recent rain.
The rain prompted Bellingen Shire Council to transition from Level 4 - Severe Water Restrictions to Level 2 - High Water Restrictions on January 21.
Despite the rain, a 2.5 Megalitres-per-day desalination plant has been procured and has been placed on standby. It will treat river water taken from east of the town, in the tidal zone.
Currently the town's drinking water is extracted from the Bellingen Borefield upstream from the bridge, processed at the water treatment plant, and then distributed to Bellingen, Urunga, Mylestom, Repton and Raleigh.
Pipes, pumps, tanks and generators for the desalination have been ordered. The appropriate approvals and drinking water risk assessments have progressed to the final stage and should be complete by mid-February.
Given the current flows in the Bellinger River and the predicted continued rainfall over the next three months the desalination plant may not be required but planning and design will continue.
"With this planning complete Council will be in a strong position to quickly install a temporary desalination plant in the future if required," a Council representative said.
Bellingen Shire Councillors voted to pursue plans for a desalination plant at an extraordinary meeting on December 11.
The motion also included a commitment to investigate other possible long-term water sources including aquifers.
"Council has been working with the State Government to proactively investigate our future water security and produce an options report which will identify alternative, sustainable ways to secure our Shire's water supply.
"It is anticipated that this report will be considered by Council in the first half of 2020 and will also inform Council's Integrated Water Cycle Planning which is substantially progressed."
Council will continue to monitor monthly river flow reports.
As of January 21 water flows at the Thora gauging station were 286 megalitres a day.
"While these improved river levels have provided some relief, there is no doubt the ongoing drought continues to have a significant impact on our environment and river levels.
Council will also continue to work with our community, local businesses and special needs industries to identify opportunities to reduce water consumption and to promote sustainable water use.