Water supply haemorrhaging $1.5m

ABOUT one-fifth of Lismore’s water is being lost because of cracks in the council’s ageing pipes, with almost 60 per cent of water in Nimbin leaking before it reaches homes, according to a new report.

The draft 2010 State of the Environment report, tabled at the Lismore City Council meeting on Tuesday night, revealed 696,818 kilolitres, or 18pc of the bulk water supplied by Rous Water worth $1.5 million, was lost across the Lismore Local Government Area during 2009/10.

Nimbin was singled out as faring the worst, losing 57pc of its reticulated water worth $210,934. Rous Water lost 17pc of water, worth $1.3 million, due to leaking pipes before it wasdelivered to Lismore.

By comparison, Sydney Water lost 6.6 per cent in the year to October 31, down from 10pc five years ago after the authority embarked on a stringent maintenance program.

Rous Water chairman Cr Richard Staples is concerned about the high level of water loss across the region.

“It’s been a very important issue,” he said. “It’s partly leaks and partly pressure and I will be looking at all those possibilities to reduce water loss. It’s a very high priority for me.”

Water and environmental experts say the large amount of lost water throws further doubt over the need for the proposed Dunoon dam.

“In older reticulation systems, leakage can be extremely high,” said Jayson Winmill, environment consultant with Ecoteam.

“If Lismore is losing 18pc and Rous 17pc, when you add those figures up you might be able to fill a new dam up very quickly.”

Lismore council’s strategic engineer, Rod Haig, said unmetered consumption, meter reading errors and pipe flushing also contributed to the large losses.

Conceding that council’s ability to detect leaking pipes was ‘limited’, he said it was in the process of implementing a pilot program aimed at improving water loss management within the Lismore water supply.

Mr Haig said under the council’s Strategic Business Plan for Water Supply and Waterwater Services, it would spend $1.6 million annually over the next 30 years replacing the network of pipes.

“This is additional to annual budgets for routine maintenance andrepairs,” he said.

Last year Lismore Council spent $84,000 on water demand management initiatives, including the odds-and-evens campaign to reduceusage. In regards to Nimbin Mr Haig said the high figure reflected the village’s ‘unique’ water supply where flows are diverted initially from the Mulgum Creek weir to DE Williams dam.

“To optimise water quality in the dam, a steady flow of water is maintained through the dam, when flows in Mulgum Creek permit this to occ-ur,” he said. “When the dam fills, any excess flow entering the dam flows over the dam spillway and discharges to a nearby creek.

“Actual water losses within the town’s pipeline network would be much smaller.”

SYSTEM LEAKS

Rous Water – 17pc

Nimbin – 57pc

Lismore LGA – 18pc

Sydney Water – 6.6pc



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