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Reservoir barrier in doubt

Wednesday, 8th July, 2009

By Andrew Robertson

Country Water said it will make a final decision on whether or not to proceed with the construction of a giant floating cover for the Stephen's Creek reservoir "in the next month or so".

The utility yesterday confirmed that the cover - touted as a major water saving measure for the city - was no longer a certainty because of a further blow-out in cost. Acting Executive Manager of Water, Travis Nadge, said that Country Water had to re-design the barrier after the NSW Dams Safety Committee expressed concern about the original design.

"We had some comments from the Dam Safety Committee on the original design," Mr Nadge said. "We've done some re-designs and run them through a business case analysis to see if it's still ... feasible or if we wish to proceed with it or not." Mr Nadge said that the new designs had added substantially to the estimated $1 million cost of construction, although he would not reveal by how much. "It's added to the cost and so that's why we're re-evaluating the case for it." He said Country Water would "probably make a decision in the next month or so" about whether or not to proceed. The NSW Government committed $700,000 from the Energy Savings Fund towards the project, which involves placing a floating synthetic barrier on the reservoir's holding pond. Mr Nadge, who would not say how much Country Water had already spent on the project, said going back to the government for more money was not an option. "No, they wouldn't provide any more funding." When it was first announced in 2007, Country Water said the 6.8 hectare cover would stop the evaporation of 143 million litres of water each year from the city's major reservoir. Adelaide company Fabtech won the contract to construct the geomembrane cover, which was originally supposed to be in place by September 2007 at a cost of $840,000. But the cost soon ballooned out to $1 million or more as the project continued to suffer delays. While anchor points have been placed around the perimeter of the holding pond, the project suffered another setback when a trial cover placed over a small section of the pond blew off last year. In February, the then manager of Country Water, Brian Steffen, declared the project had completed its final hurdle after receiving approval from the NSW Dams Committee. Mr Steffen, who has since left the position, failed to mention that the committee still had concerns with the design.

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