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Why is water security a problem for Orange?

The last dry period saw Orange reach Stage 5a level water restrictions. The next level would have seen some businesses shut down operations. This would have severely affected those people relying on those businesses for their income and services. It would also have severely affected business confidence. Businesses are unlikely to invest in a community where there is not water security.
The Orange City community currently requires 5,400 megalitres per year in secure yield and this is expected to rise to 6,058 megalitres per year by 2040 assuming a medium population growth level of 0.8% per year.
The current secure water yield for Orange from the current natural catchment and storage infrastructure is 4,750 megalitres per year, consisting of dam inflows, storm water harvesting and licenced bores. This means there is currently a shortfall of 650 megalitres per year and this shortfall will grow to 2,700 megalitres a year under a moderate growth scenario and 4,300 under high growth scenario over the next 50 years.
Climate change modelling conducted by the NSW Government is forecasting a median drop of 2% in rainfall onto Suma Park Dam catchment. It is also expected the median annual stream flow will decrease by 15% as only a limited amount of rainfall runs off the catchment.
The catchment that Suma Park Dam and the creeks the stormwater harvesting infrastructure is built on is limited and other communities and people rely on this water downstream. This means there is only limited supply from this catchment available to the Orange City community.
The Council already makes an environmental release of 1 megalitres a day into Summer Hill Creek from Suma Park Dam during the late spring, summer and early autumn period.
The Orange water supply storage system is six times more likely to fail than the accepted industry standard for water authorities.
The proposed Macquarie Orange Pipeline provides another option and access to another water catchment area. This means the city will no longer be solely reliant on a single catchment of approximately 179 square kilometres.



What is the Orange City Council doing to secure Orange’s water supply?

Orange City Council is working to secure the current and future water needs of the city. It is taking an integrated approach and looking at many different options to provide a more reliable water supply over the next 50 years. The Macquarie Orange Pipeline Project is just one of the options being investigated.
The Orange City Council has already completed some projects to help secure water for the Orange community for the next 50 years these are:
·         Blackmans Swamp Creek Stormwater Harvesting Stage One
·         Ploughmans Creek Stormwater Harvesting
·         Spring Creek Dam Upgrade
·         Residential demand management (including water restrictions and water use charges)
·         Collaboration between Council and the commercial and industrial sectors to drive water efficiencies
·         A residential retrofitting program providing free water efficient devices and audits
·         Council rebates towards the installation of rainwater tanks
·    Increased licences for use of ground water from bores to 462 megalitres
The Council is also examining other options for securing Orange's water, these include:
·         Full licencing stage one of Blackmans Swamp Creek Stormwater Harvesting Scheme
·        Investigating a managed recharge of the basalt aquifer as an alternative water storage
·         Investigating raising the Suma Park Dam wall by one metre
·         Examining stage two of Blackmans Swamp Creek Stormwater Harvesting
·         Reuse of excess treated effluent when it becomes available
·         Macquarie Orange Pipeline Project
·         Investigation of other potential water sources raised in recent community consultations

What is the Macquarie Orange Pipeline Project?

The Macquarie Orange Pipeline Project is one project in an overall program aimed at securing water for the current and future needs of the Orange Community.  
The Macquarie Orange Pipeline Project will investigate, assess and design, and if approved, construct and commission a pipeline from the Macquarie River to Orange’s Suma Park Dam.
What Orange is proposing is similar to many regional cities, Bathurst and Dubbo included, where traditional dam structures or ground water supplies are augmented by a connection to a river.

Why is the Macquarie Pipeline project being pursued at this time?

The Macquarie Pipeline project is being investigated because it meets a number of criteria:
·         The project provides additional water for the needs of the community
·         the Council can purchase already established water licences on the Macquarie River
·         an environmental assessment can be undertaken to assess its suitability
·         there is Australian Government and NSW State Government funding available for the project if it is found to be a suitable option
·         the pipeline can be built in a relatively short period of time so that if extremely dry weather conditions return, it can help the community

What are the benefits of the proposed pipeline?

The benefits of the pipeline are:
·         Orange would no longer be solely reliant on a single water catchment
·         Compared with other options (particularly dams) it can be built quickly and relatively cheaply
·         It provides additional water to meet the needs of the growing city
·         It provides certainty to business

What would the proposed pipeline do and how would it be operated?

The pipeline is expected to have the capacity to transfer up to 12 megalitres per day of water from the river to the dam with an average water transfer of approximately 1616 megalitres per annum.
Water would only be pumped at times when flows are above a trigger level flowing past that point in the Macquarie River and once Suma Park Dam is below 90% full. Therefore like the stormwater harvesting scheme, pumping will be undertaken on an opportunistic basis when there are good flows in the river and spare capacity in the dams.
The pipeline would top-up Suma Park Dam levels so that when extremely dry conditions occur there would be a greater period before extreme water restrictions would need to be implemented.

How much will it cost?

Funding for the $47 million joint project between Orange City Council, the NSW Government and the Australian Government was announced in August 2010.
The Australian Government has committed $20 million, the NSW Government $18.2 million and Orange City Council $8.8 million.
These costs were identified in a feasibility study and have been further tested through a concept investigation where the consultant was required to estimate construction costs to within 10 per cent. A subsequent independent review has given Council an 85 per cent level of confidence that the estimate of $47 million is within the 10 per cent required by the brief.


What are the operating costs and what will that mean to the cost of water?

The preliminary operating have been estimated at an average of $736,801 a year, comprising fixed operating costs of $250,000 a year and average electricity costs of $486,801 pa at current electricity prices.
The operating costs are estimated to equate to an increase of approximately 15 cents a kilolitre, plus a $12.50 increase in the connection fee. Orange City Council’s residential price for 2012/13 will be $1.75 a kilolitre for the first 450 kilolitres.
An average household uses approximately 250 kilolitres a year. For the average household a 15 cents a kilolitre increase plus a $12.50 increase in annual connection fees equates to an annual increase of water rates of $50 per year.
The 250 kilolitre figure is based on usage of between 250 litres and 300 litres per person per day. The current average per person per day usage is approximately 170 litres per person per day.

Where will the proposed pipeline be located?

The proposed pipeline would run for approximately 39km from the Macquarie River to Orange’s Suma Park Dam. The pipeline would start from downstream of Long Point, which is downstream from where the Macquarie and Turon Rivers meet.
At present approximately 50 per cent of the pipeline is proposed to be located along road reserves, including Ophir Road and Long Point Road. In some areas, the pipeline will need to cross private land. The Council will continue to consult with the landholders along the route. 

What is the expected design of the proposed pipeline?

The water would be pumped from the river using pumps at different locations along the pipeline route.  It is expected this would involve a pump station on the river and booster pumps and tanks along the route.
It is expected the pipe would be built underground to minimize the impact on farming and other land uses.
Orange City Council is developing the detailed design specifications to meet environmental and engineering requirements of the project.

How is the council investigating the environmental, design and cost issues of the project?

The Macquarie Orange Pipeline Project is currently in the investigation and assessment phase. This phase will assess the pipeline to ensure it is environmentally, socially and financially suitable for construction and that it can provide the expected benefits to the Orange community.
Key milestones for the current investigation and assessment phase of the project are:
·         Completion of the environmental assessment; and
·         Completion of the detailed design.
Consultants have also been engaged to undertake environmental assessment and assist with the detailed design.
The environmental assessment will assess the environmental impact of the project on the Macquarie River and the land the pipeline will run through. It includes an assessment on the impact on animals, fish and plants. The Environmental Assessment will be releases shortly for public comment.

How does the council know there is enough water consistently flowing through the Macquarie River to supply water to the Orange community?

Data collected and modelled across 120 years shows that in an average year, 304,042 megalitres of water passes through the section of the Macquarie River where the pipeline connection would be located. The Council is proposing to use an average 1,616 megalitres, or half of one per cent, of these flows annually.



Won’t the proposed pipeline put additional pressure on the Macquarie River?

The Orange City Council has purchased an option on an existing Macquarie River irrigation licence and will voluntarily place additional restrictions on the use of the licence to ensure the health of the river. 
The irrigation licences on this unregulated area of the Macquarie River do not require a minimum flow before water is withdrawn. However, Orange City Council will not withdraw water from the river until the trigger level is exceeded at the offtake point.

Won’t the proposed pipeline mean Orange will be withdrawing more water than it should from the Murray Darling river system?

The proposed Macquarie project does not result in Orange receiving an additional entitlement from the Murray Darling System. Council has an annual entitlement of 7800 megalitres.
The Council also has an option to purchase a 640 megalitre licence from an existing landholder in the Upper Macquarie Catchment.

Why doesn’t the council use treated effluent (sewerage) for its additional water supply?

The council is investigating using additional treated effluent to supplement the water supply as part of its overall water security program.
Currently all of Orange's treated effluent is provided to the Cadia Valley Operations for use in mining. This reuse of treated effluent greatly reduces the demand by the mine on freshwater supplies. This has a positive impact on the environment and communities in the Central West.
However, when additional treated effluent becomes available, above what Cadia Valley Operations is contracted, the Council would consider options for the use of this treated effluent.
It is however an extremely expensive exercise to treat this water.

Would preventing further growth in Orange prevent increased water demands?

As we live in a democracy where people can choose where they live there are only limited avenues available to the Orange City Council for limiting growth. These have severe consequences to the Orange community.
If further housing development were prevented this would increase the cost of purchasing or renting housing in Orange. Many local people and their adult children could no longer afford to live in Orange. It would also severely affect our ability to attract skilled people to work in many essential services such as the health and aged care facilities and education. It would also deter further investment in areas such as the university as students would struggle to find affordable accommodation.
The building industry and many of the related service providers would also be severely impacted if growth in the city was stopped.

What about reducing the Orange community's use of water?

The council has introduced a raft of measures to reduce water consumption. These include:
·         Residential demand management (including water restrictions and water use charges)
·         Collaboration between the Council and the commercial and industrial sectors to drive water efficiencies
·         A residential retrofitting program providing free water efficient devices and audits
·         Council rebates towards the installation of rainwater tanks
The assistance of these initiatives has enabled Orange residents to greatly reduce water consumption. Water consumption today is almost half of that of the 1990s and early 2000s. The Orange community now has one of the lowest consumption levels in NSW.
The Council realises that residents need a minimum amount of water to look after their families and homes and maintain the health and hygiene levels expected in a modern community.  Businesses, and community and public facilities also require water to maintain operations. This is why securing Orange's water for now and into the future is so important.

Why the Macquarie pipeline instead of a new dam at Lake Rowlands?

Lake Rowlands is located south of Blayney. Its capacity is 4500 megalitres. It is owned and operated by Central Tablelands Water, which provides water to 11,500 consumers in 14 towns and villages in the Central West. There is currently no spare capacity in Lake Rowlands to provide water to Orange.
A new dam at Lake Rowlands has been proposed but it is unclear whether it will proceed.
A new hydrology study conducted by New South Wales Office of Water has determine that the secure yield of Lake Rowlands is much lower then previously forecast. Water supplies have also been fully allocated in the Belubula River catchment and Orange City Council would have difficulty in purchasing extra entitlements to secure water supplies for the city.
The order of costs for this project have been revised a number of times, but currently sits at $300 million.
A new dam at Lake Rowlands would still require a pipeline to Orange, which would be longer than the proposed Macquarie pipeline, at a cost of over $50 million.
The timeframe to deliver this new dam is likely to be in the order of 15 years and is well outside the acceptable period to address the current Orange water security problems.

Why not raise the Suma Park Dam wall instead?

The City Council is investigating raising the dam wall by one metre in conjunction with a pipeline to the Macquarie River. This raising would be conducted in conjunction with dam safety work required by the State Government. The additional cost of raising the dam wall by one metre is approximately $4 million.
An assessment of more than 100 years of data has found that even if the dam was bigger, for the majority of time it would not be full. This project becomes more feasible if the Macquarie pipeline is constructed to store the harvested water.
A comparison between the Orange and Bathurst water supplies and catchments is telling.
Orange and Bathurst have similar climates and population. The Bathurst dam’s capacity is 30,000 megalitres compared with Orange’s 21,800 megalitres. The catchment for Bathurst’s Chifley Dam is 960km2, which is five time larger than the Suma Park Dam catchment of 179km2. Bathurst residents did not receive the severe water restrictions Orange encountered during the past decade.

Why not just increase the stormwater harvesting?

The catchment that Suma Park dam and the creeks the stormwater harvesting infrastructure is built on is limited and other communities and people rely on this water downstream. This means there is only limited supply from this catchment available to the Orange City community.
A significant element of Orange’s water security problems was an over reliance on limited sources of supply. Orange City Council has adopted an integrated approach with no reliance on one water source and no reliance on one management strategy.
Stormwater harvesting is an important element of this diversity with Blackmans Swamp Creek and Ploughmans Creek stormwater harvesting schemes now complete.
The Blackmans Swamp Stormwater Harvesting Scheme can deliver approximately 800 megalitres a year, which represents approximately 8 per cent of the flows in the creek.
Attempting to increase the harvest in Blackmans Swamp Creek by 1800 megalitres a year would reduce flows in that creek by more than 18 per cent.
A diverse supply improves security and it also limits the burden on creek and river catchments from the perspective of downstream users and the environment.

What is the next step for the project?

The project still has now gained approval by the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) with a number of conditions. View the approval conditions.The final step in the approval process is by the Australian Government.
Significant investigations have taken place over the last 18 months. These have included Hydrology and Geomorphology, Terrestrial, Aquatic Ecology, Indigenous and Non – Indigenous, Infrastructure, Traffic and Transport, Noise and Vibration, Visual Amenity, Spoil Handling and Waste Management, Air Quality, Geotechnical Investigations, Survey for Design and Phone Line Locations.
The consultants engaged to undertake these investigations have completed their field work. The Environmental Assessment incorporating the consultants reports was submitted to the NSW government. A preferred Project Report has also been submitted to the NSW government. The NSW Government is currently assessing the project.

The Task Force includes representatives from

  • the Department of Premier and Cabinet,
  • NSW Office of Water,
  • Office of Environment and Heritage,
  • The Land and Property Management Authority,
  • Industry and Investment,
  • Planning NSW,
  • Department of Local Government and
  • Orange City Council.
The Director General's Requirements (DGR) for the Macquarie Pipeline Project have been released and are statutory standards and assessment thresholds that must be met in consideration of the project.
The requirements have been set by the NSW Department of Planning under Section 75F of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979).
In addition to the government consultation process, Orange City Council has established a community consultation process.