There is plenty of opposition to a proposed new dam.
There is plenty of opposition to a proposed new dam.

Why we don't need a 50-gigalitre dam: Councillor

AS YOU may have heard in the media recently, Rous Water currently has on public exhibition their Future Water Project 2060.

All Ballina councillors have had the opportunity to be briefed on Rous' preferred option, which is to build a 50GL dam at Dunoon.

At the briefing it was revealed that the total cost of the Dunoon Dam over an expected '80-year life span' would be over $650 million in today's dollars.

All water users in the region would have to pay for it through increased rates and water usage charges.

Rous Water currently supplies water to the local government areas of Ballina, Lismore, Byron and Richmond Valley.

If the Dunoon Dam goes ahead, Rous Water estimates that water usage and supply charges will need to increase by 400 per cent. 

Is building a new dam the best way forward?

For a start, all major new subdivisions in the Ballina Shire have a recycled water pipe built into the infrastructure for toilets, laundry and garden usage.

This greatly reduces the demand for 'new water' to be supplied.

Surely programs like this can be extended or retrofitted to areas of high-water usage?

If we could get closer to closing the loop then a new water source wouldn't be needed.

The concept of building a massive new dam just to flush the water down the toilet and into the creeks, rivers and ultimately the ocean doesn't seem right to me.

It's time we looked at closing the loop with our water rather than just building larger dams or unsustainably tapping into the aquifers for a single use water management strategy.

Instead of investing all our resources into the proposed Dunoon dam, a range of alternative strategies need further investigation and investment.

A suite of options that encourage greater water usage efficiency and reuse could provide an even more secure long-term water strategy.

For example:

  • Approximately 15-20 per cent of the existing water supplied by Rous is wasted through leaking pipes. Greater investment to reduce this huge amount of lost water should be a priority
  • Greater reuse options - expand the 'purple pipe' infrastructure to increase water reusage, particularly for industry, new subdivisions and large water users.
  • Rainwater tanks - increase the rebates and requirement for rainwater tanks.

The NSW Government is currently undertaking its own review of the future water needs of our region including domestic, agricultural and commercial usage.

The Rous Water study only looks at urban water usage and supply.

Surely, we need to at least wait to see what the NSW Government's review comes up with before being asked to determine a long-term strategy with massive cost and sustainability implications?

Currently, the public is being asked to choose either Option A or B (the Dunoon Dam or a massive increase in ground water usage).

What if there are options C, D or E, or a combination between them that haven't been given proper consideration

We are fortunate in the Northern Rivers given our high rainfall.

How are other areas going to secure their 'long term water needs' when they receive far less rainfall than our region

In the recent drought, one of the worst on record, our region was the least affected.

As outlined above, there are other options available to secure our long-term water needs.

A submission is simply an email sent to While submissions officially close on the 9th September, if you can't write one before this date, I would still encourage you to send one as they will also be considered after this date.

Jeff Johnson,

Ballina Shire councillor.

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