An aerial view of the Petries Crossing weir and off-stream storage on the Severn River.
An aerial view of the Petries Crossing weir and off-stream storage on the Severn River.

Meeting to make a splash

LOWER cost or guaranteed water supply?

This is the decision, which Southern Downs Regional Councillors will have to face during a special meeting on April 6, to decide the future of Stanthorpe’s water supply.

They will need to choose between options including weirs, off-stream storages, a huge dam or a pipeline from Connolly Dam.

The decision will not be easy and may not even be made on April 6, given how much information will need to be processed.

It will be one of the toughest of their short time in office.

During the engineering services committee meeting on Tuesday the councillors were taken through a discussion on one of the two options which appear to be at the forefront – a weir and off-stream storage at the Petries Crossing site on the Severn River, on the southern side of Stanthorpe.

Engineering services deputy director Chris Loveday has been with the Stanthorpe Shire and now Southern Downs Regional Council since 1988 and has been looking at the issue of Stanthorpe’s future water supply for the last 14 years.

Mr Loveday is now leading the investigations into all of the possible options and said the Petries Crossing option would involve building an 800-megalitre off-stream storage near the Severn River.

The storage would draw its water from a 60ml weir to be constructed on the river, which would serve a purpose simply as a drawing site for two submersible pumps during major flood events each year.

In his address to council, Mr Loveday said these events would only happen twice to three times a year – based on rainfall data for the region which has been compiled since the late 1800s.

This would supply an extra 1500mls of “new” water each year, to supplement the Storm King Dam, which is currently Stanthorpe’s only water source and is predicted to cost just over $15,000,000 to construct.

However here’s the catch – if Stanthorpe’s population continues to rise at a predicted level each year, by 2070 the town would need to start looking again for another source as it would have outgrown its capacity. And in his report, Mr Loveday said that council would still need to find an emergency source of water – like carting from Leslie Dam – in times of extreme prolonged drought conditions.

This option is stacked up against the huge 5000ml Emu Swamp dam, which would be constructed about 20 kilometres below Petries Crossing on the Severn River and at last estimate was predicted to cost somewhere in the $40m ballpark.

Mr Loveday was unable to confirm the current the figure, and said they were in the process of being updated.

DERM is investigating the feasibility of a pipeline from Connolly Dam to Stanthorpe while council has investigated two other off-stream storage options – one further south from Petries Crossing and the other near Storm King Dam.

Mr Loveday said the major stumbling block to both the Petries Crossing and Emu Swamp sites – the Bald Rock Creek Turtle – had been investigated and he said that it did not appear to be a problem.

However, with either the Petries Crossing weir and off-stream storage or Emu Swamp Dam, the question of funding still remains.

Who would pay for the water storage, which would be used solely at this stage for Stanthorpe urban use?

Mr Loveday said that was not a question council officers had gone into much detail on, and said it would be refined once a decision on a particular option was decided.

He said that some State Government assistance would be avail- able, even if it was not a guaranteed amount.

Mr Loveday said council would have to fund the remainder, with a loan, with repayments to either be spread across ratepayers in the region, or possibly applied to just Stanthorpe water users.

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