Lenthall Dam Water, Fraser Coast, Queensland, Courtesy of Fraser Coast Regional Council

Fraser Coast Regional Council has endorsed a planning report which proposes the construction of a water grid and desalination plant to provide long-term water supply security for the Fraser Coast.

The Fraser Coast Water Supply Security Strategy – Planning Report was prepared by engineering company Cardno, and recommends building a water grid connecting Hervey Bay and Maryborough water schemes and a desalination plant 

At its meeting on 23 March 2022, the Council endorsed the plan as a guiding document for future investment in the regional water network.

Councillor David Lee said, “Council recognises that water is our most valuable resource, with water security planning revisited every five to seven years to ensure the latest data and technology is considered.

“This study has reassessed all the options for future water supplies, the costs, and when they will be required to ensure the community has continued water security. It also considered community expectations around the frequency and level of water restrictions.

“The report found that a water grid and a desalination plant, combined with the continued use of water restrictions and the development of a demand management strategy, would ensure a secure, reliable and affordable water future for the Fraser Coast.”

The key recommendations of the report were:

  • Adopt a “Level of Service” for the frequency and duration of water restrictions that meets community expectations
  • Develop a demand management strategy to reduce water use per person
  • Design and build a treated water interconnector (a water grid) between Maryborough and Hervey Bay by 2026 at an estimated cost of about $31 million
  • Design and build a desalination plant capable of supplying 7.5ML a day of treated water by 2036 at an estimated cost of $45 million

Mr Lee said extensive community consultation was undertaken as part of the study, including the establishment of a dedicated web page on Council’s Engagement Hub and the formation of a community engagement panel.

“There were 191 responses to the online survey as well as feedback collected from information stalls at markets in Hervey Bay and Maryborough,” Mr Lee said.

“The results indicated that 57 per cent of community members and 63 per cent of panel members who completed the online survey were willing to have Level 2 water restrictions introduced every year to cut demand.

“However, the community did not want higher levels of water restrictions as often, with the report recommending Level 3 water restrictions only occur once every five years and Level 4 water restrictions be limited to once every 40 years.”

During the investigation, Cardno also considered connecting to new surface water sources such as Paradise Dam, the Mary River scheme, Tinana Creek and Mary River Off-stream storage options; as well as taking groundwater from K’Gari (Fraser Island), raising Lenthalls dam, and purified recycled water.

However, the report found a Hervey Bay to Maryborough treated water interconnector and a desalination plant were the options that delivered the greatest benefit to the community in achieving the level of service objectives.

Mr Lee said the Fraser Coast’s drinking water supply network included 1,100km of water main, which was equivalent to driving from Hervey Bay to Sydney.

“By connecting our two service areas into a single network, water can be pumped both to and from Maryborough and Hervey Bay,” he said.

“It will mean we would have a more resilient and efficient water supply network, as it would mean more use of the region’s water collection, treatment and storage assets.”

Mr Lee said a demand management strategy would consider how water can be used more efficiently and could help defer the need for a desalination plant by 2036.

“The report found that Fraser Coast residential water consumption is about 240L per person per day on average, compared with about 156L per person per day in South East Queensland,” he said.

“This shows there are opportunities for us to work with the community to reduce demand and use water more efficiently in our workplaces, homes and on our lawns and gardens.

“It’s all about how we balance demand and costs to ensure we have a safe, reliable and secure water supply for all residents of the Fraser Coast now and into the future.”

The Fraser Coast Water Supply Security Strategy – Planning Report is available for viewing on the Council’s website here.

Image: Lenthall Dam. Courtesy of Fraser Coast Regional Council.

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