Ballina Cr Keith Williams has been re-elected as chair of Rous County Council.
Ballina Cr Keith Williams has been re-elected as chair of Rous County Council.

Without a new dam, where will the water come from?

Underground wells from Alstonville and Tyagarah will be the main source of water for the Northern Rivers if the Dunoon dam is removed from the Future Water Plan 2060.

Other possible water sources Rous has been discussing could come from Newrybar and Woodburn extraction sites.

Rous County Council’s chairperson, Keith Williams, supports the idea the region’s future water supply is safe without the dam.

“The documents released by Rous last year for the Future Water Plan showed three options: two that involved a dam, and a third option which also guaranteed water security and was laid down as the groundwater strategy,” he said.

“That plan includes rolling out groundwater infrastructure in aquifers that we have already drilled wells, we already know the water is there, and it supplies the water we need for the next 40 years.

A 3D version of what a possible Dunoon Dam would look like is available from the Rous County Council website.
A 3D version of what a possible Dunoon Dam would look like is available from the Rous County Council website.

“When Rous councillors made the decision to go ahead without the dam, we already knew we had that.”

Asked if we would be moving the environmental and possibly the cultural opposition to the water source to another location, Mr Williams was not sure.

“There is a risk of that, certainly,” he said.

“I was more concerned with the legal risks of the dam, in that I think we could spend the next 10 years easily fighting this in court, with no guarantee that would ever be able to build it.

“That’s not a risk in Alstonville, because the plans for Alstonville are identical, whether we build the dam or not. Rous already owns the licences for that water.”

The extra water will come from other underground sources, like Tyagarah, Mr Williams said.

“Instead of building the dam, we look towards the next source, which is likely to be at Tyagarah, where we have identified sufficient volumes of freshwater that will enable us to build a water treatment plan there and provide the next set of water around 2029 or 2030.”

>>> Underground water key to quenching region’s thirst

Rous County Council passed a motion to remove the dam from it’s long-term strategy on December 2020.

Five councillors representing Byron, Lismore and Ballina shires supported the motion. Others from Ballina and Richmond Valley were against it.

Rous County Council will debate this week a rescission motion trying to reinstate the Dunoon dam as the cornerstone of the area’s future water strategy, but Mr Williams believes the motion will not pass.

“I don’t expect the vote to change from December,” he said.

“The councillors that voted for the motion in December will probably remain in that position.”

Rous County Council will meet this Wednesday from 1pm.

The new, dam-free version of the Future Water Plan 2060 will be unveiled at an extraordinary meeting in March.

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