Some quicker, cheaper, more reliable

and less destructive options for Brisbane’s water.



1 Measures that the State has already put in place 2 3


The Queensland State Government can be commended for many of the drought response measures it has already put in place – such as the support of rainwater tanks, the Tugan desalination plant , the Western Corridor  recycling scheme, and demand reduction and efficiency measures.


The University of Technology Sydney has undertaken a report of the water supply needs in SEQ. The report found that the water supply needs could be met by implementing the drought response measures that the Government is currently working on (less the Traveston Dam) and extending the current demand management initiatives with a particular emphasis on water smart new development.


Professor White's report found that Traveston Dam is an expensive and unnecessary component of Queensland’s water plans. The Review, based on Qld Government supply and demand projections, analysed options based on their cost for each kilolitre of water gained, their capacity to provide drought relief and their ability to provide longer term water security. The analysis proved that Traveston Dam is expensive, unhelpful for drought relief and not needed for the long term water security of the region.


Needless to say, Professor White’s work has been criticised by the State Government in an unprofessional, misleading and technically flawed response. Professor White has challenged the State Government to undertake a proper review of both documents by an independent third party.


Here is a link to more information about this report




1 2 Desalination as an alternative bulk water supply 3

There is a lot of misinformation about the potential impact of desalination. Much

of this is ill-informed. Desalination is a cost effective, sustainable and environmentally responsible alternative to major dams.


Some facts about desalination:


Of all the water on this planet, 98% of it is in the Ocean. There are over 11,000 desalination plants in operation around the world. Desalination is not rainfall dependent – if the worst drought in record gets worse, the desalination plant keeps producing water.


The cost of desalination has decreased 10 fold in the last 40 years, 3 fold in the last 10 years and is predicted to halve in the next 3-5 years, making it far more cost effective than dams.


Where to locate it? - the State Government has already spent $500,000 looking at potential sites around SEQ. The report has been kept secret. Simply pick the top site from that secret list.


The major objection is power consumption and greenhouse gas emissions - however this is easily solved. For the recently commissioned Kwinana Plant in Perth, there is a wind farm which totally offsets the power consumption from the desal plant.


The second main objection is from discharge of brine - again, this is easily dealt with. Raw sea water has a salt content of 3.7% - once it has been through a desal plant it has a salt content of 6.8%. For the Perth Plant, the salt concentration has to be back to normal levels within 50 metres of the discharge point.


It is not expensive. The Kwinana Plant in WA commenced operation in November 2006 and cost less than $400 million. It produces 45,000 ML of water per year. They are planning to build at least one more plant in Perth.


The Victorian Government has just announced plans to build a 150,000 ML desalination plant. This plant will provide more than twice the amount of water that Stage 1 of the proposed Traveston Crossing Dam will provide.


On 25 June 2007, the NSW Premier announced a 90,000 ML/yr desalination plant with construction to begin in July 2007. Mr Iemma said "thanks to falling prices due to new technologies and more competition among tenderers, the Government would commission the plant for $1.76 bn - $140 million less than originally budgeted for a plant half the size”.


The Queensland State Govt is spending $9 bn on its "water grid" - and the cost is going up by the day. In June 2006, the Deputy Premier announced another $600m to fast track the western corridor recycling line, the cost of which (@ $2.3 bn) is now comparable with the cost of a major desal plant.


At a public meeting on 5 July 2006, Peter Beattie said that “if you were right about desalination being cheaper we would do it tomorrow. I just wish you were right and I was wrong”. Well Mr Beattie, you were wrong and your wish has come true. A detailed study by the University of Technology Sydney puts the cost of water from a significant desalination plant at $2.06 / kl and the cost of water from Traveston Stage 2 at $4.65/kl.




 1 2 3-Urban rainwater collection and recycling combined

A number of studies have looked at the potential for rainwater tanks and urban run-off collection to supplement urban water supplies, and a number of studies have looked at recycling as a contribution to the urban water balance.  However, there is a significant  interaction between these two technologies which as yet has not been seriously considered  by urban water planners.


Let's use the Traveston Crossing proposal as an example.

To replace the 70GL per year that is optimistically expected from the Traveston Crossing Dam  (which cannot be available before 2012), would require the collection of less than 5% of the rainfall that falls on the Brisbane City Council area.  Collecting rainfall from hard surfaces (roofs and paved area) is much more efficient and less unpredictable than trying to collect runoff from a dam catchment. Even a light shower will result in some harvestable water.  This water is available without the need to pump it in from a long distance away and is available now.


So far, the use of roof rainwater tanks to collect water like this has been treated as if it was a demand  reduction  - because when people use water from rainwater  tanks they are not drawing as much from the reticulated supply.


However, Brisbane will soon have access to a state-of-the-art recycling system.  If the roofwater and runoff is connected to the recycling system after its initial use (some of it already is), then only 50% of the collected water would need to be reclaimed (with a continued 50% efficiency) to provide the equivalent of another 70 GL per year of ‘new’ water into the urban water system.  This brings the total yield of the combined technology to 140GL/year (Almost the yield of Stage 1 & 2 Traveston and a raised Borumba dam combined).


This water will be available as soon as the recycling scheme is operational (much sooner than building any dams), will be far more reliable than relying on unpredictable inflows to a dam and could be there at very little extra cost (the projects are already funded).


Why is the State Government still continuing down a path with such severe consequences for the Mary River?