Tougher water restrictions necessary

The worsening drought and a failed water pump on the pipeline that carries water to our town has prompted Cobar Shire Council to impose tougher water restrictions on its residents.

Council’s general manager Peter Vlatko said the Cobar Water Board has asked the council and the mines to start looking at being more restrictive in their usage.

“While it’s really hot and we’ve got no water going to the storages it puts a lot of pressure on the whole system,” Mr Vlatko said.

“The future doesn’t look good at the moment, with a lack of rain. Burrendong doesn’t have water flowing into it—this is the first time in the history of the Burrendong Dam that there is no flow going into it, so we need rain.

“Because of a lack of rain, our storages have been reduced, considerably. Two storage tanks in town are now dry.”

Mr Vlatko explained that of Cobar’s annual water allocation of 1,850ML (which is released roughly on a quarterly basis), it’s estimated that approximately 25 per cent is lost to evaporation in the Albert Priest Channel and a further 25 per cent at the Nyngan weir pool.

“We end up with half our allocation—it’s measured at the start of where it’s released.

“The weir pool itself is subject to normal flow, rain (we’ve had none) and the release of our water. The Cobar Water Board then takes our water and delivers it to the mines, the consumers and council.”

He said the board has been maintaining and upgrading the pipeline over the years and has had to replace a large number of valves which had failed.

A major pump at Hermidale also recently failed and had to be taken out and sent away for repairs which Mr Vlatko said could take an estimated 4-6 months and cost up to $1million.

In the meantime, Cobar Water Board is looking to hire a pump from WA (at $1,000 a day plus delivery costs) that will do the job until the pump is repaired.

“We need to pump roughly 190 litres a second to town to cover our usage,” Mr Vlatko said,

“Our usage, because of the hot weather, at the moment is 185.5 so we need to pump 190 but because the pump’s failed we’re down to 150 litres.

“We’re taking more out of the storages than what we’re pumping in,” he said.

“That’s why the board has spoken to the mines and is talking to council, to ask the community, for the long term security of this water, to be a bit more restrictive on how we use it.”

State Member for Barwon Kevin Humphries met with Mr Vlatko to discuss the water situation and has advised Cobar Water Board will be able to access funding under the Emergency Water Supply Scheme, to fund the pump.

“So that’s not going to cost the Water Board anything which gets passed on to ratepayers,” Mr Humphries said.

Mr Humphries said he has coordinated a meeting between the Cobar Water Board and the Minister’s Office [for Water] to look at the whole pipeline replacement program.

“We’ll be looking at fast tracking that, with Public Works to do the whole lot of the work.” he said.