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Water status: Expect more restrictions

Monday, 9th March, 2015

By Michael Murphy

Broken Hill residents will face level two water restrictions in about four months unless local water reserves are topped up.

This means that householders would be prohibited from watering their gardens three days a week on top of bans already in place.

The city has been on level one water restrictions since December 8 last year after the Menindee Lakes dipped below 18 months of town supply.

The trigger for level two restrictions is Menindee Lakes falling below 12 months of town supply, which Essential Water expects in the middle of this year, barring inflows.

The salt content of water is also a trigger for restrictions, but won’t factor in the final decision to take water bans to the next level, according to Essential Water’s regional manager Guy Chick.

“We will reach level two for remaining storage many months before we reach level two based on salinity,” Mr Chick said. “Thanks to the government-funded water transfer into Copi Hollow.”

NSW Water - the authority currently managing the lakes - pumped water from Lake Pamamaroo into the deeper Copi Hollow in December and January to fill it to capacity.

The salinity of the raw water has actually decreased over the summer. The measure for salinity is electrical conductivity (EC). Pure water resists the passage of electrical current, but salts dissolved in water increases conductivity.

In December, raw water was measuring 739EC and it currently sits around 521EC, while the level two restrictions’ trigger point is 1820EC.

Over the summer, the amount of water Essential Water has pumped out to customers has dropped by about 20 percent compared to the previous summer, resulting in a drop in revenue of $440,000 for the water retailer.

In December, January and February, customers consumed 1190ML of treated water, compared to 1490ML the previous summer.

Mr Chick said efficiencies would need to be found within organisation to compensate for the drop in revenue.

But he said the NSW government’s promise of infrastructure funding would ease the burden as those costs could not be sustained by local water ratepayers.

Essential Water is currently drawing water from Stephen’s Creek Reservoir, and expects to do so for the next four to six weeks.

“When Stephens Creek draws down to the emergency storage level we will keep it topped up from Copi Hollow and supplemented from Umberumberka,” Mr Chick said.

Copi Hollow currently holds about 12.2GL - or 12,200ML. Essential Water customers are currently demanding 19.1ML per day - this figure includes untreated and treated water.

Essential Water has dealt with 10 incidents of people breaking water restrictions since they began in December last year.

The have received tip offs from the public and staff have also observed people breaking the bans, including schools that forgot to change the times on automated watering systems.

No one has been fined, but they were issued reminders about the restrictions.

Essential Water had 33 applications for exemptions, relating to health and safety.

Mr Chick said overall he was pleased with “continued responsible water usage” during water restrictions.

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