Its a sleepy little town
Water supply to run dry
Chris Griffith, City Hall reporter
SOUTHEAST Queensland is only 18 months away from "total failure" of the drinking water supply, a top-secret Brisbane Water memo leaked to The Courier-Mail has starkly warned.
Experts at Brisbane Water, Brisbane City Council's water management arm, have calculated the region will effectively run dry by November next year unless there is a normal wet season this summer – or more than 600mm of rain.
Almost 60mm, the height of a gumboot, has to fall in any two-week period just to get measurable run-off into Wivenhoe and Somerset dams, the two largest dams in the area.
Electricity supplies also could be hit because Tarong and Swanbank power stations rely heavily on water from Somerset and Wivenhoe dams, as well as the Brisbane and Bremer rivers.
The average capacity at Wivenhoe, Somerset and North Pine, the major dams in the region, is down to 41.5 per cent, a record low.
The experts mentioned in the memo outlined a worst case scenario where there were no dam "inflows" over the next 18 months.
Even with all proposed restrictions in place, that reduce the region's storage to 10 per cent by November 2006. The remaining water might be undrinkable.
"Our best advice to date indicates extracting water down to and below 10 per cent will have considerable water quality and engineering consequences," the memo warned.
"We are now entering our dry season and low probability of rain before our next wet season in October 2005.
"This means we have 12 months and one wet season left before total failure."
The memo warned there was no contingency plan in place for "dam failure" except the belief that it would eventually rain, but it also revealed that Brisbane Water had started investigating emergency supplies of water.
Council's city business chairman John Campbell yesterday called for an immediate review of water management, saying the situation facing the region was critical.
"I have seen a worst-case scenario presented to me that paints a grim picture," he said.
SEQWater Corporation, which manages Wivenhoe, Somerset and North Pine, last night disputed the contents of the memo.