13 February 2020

'Extreme circumstances require extreme solutions': Council works to improve Bega Valley water quality

| Elka Wood
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Water and Sewerage Services Operations Superintendent, Bruce Powell, coordinating water carting and delivery to Brogo Balance Tank 1 on Tuesday.

Water and Sewerage Services operations superintendent Bruce Powell coordinating water carting and delivery to Brogo Balance Tank 1 on Tuesday. Photo: Supplied.

After heavy rains earlier this week, there appears to be an abundance of water. But the combined effects of drought, fire and rain in the Bega Valley mean water quality in some areas is so poor, council is taking drastic steps to rectify it.

“Extreme circumstances require extreme solutions and that is certainly the case with the work currently being done to secure the safe supply of water to the communities in the north of our Shire, with local contractors carting all the water used in the Brogo-Bermagui Water Supply System from Bega,” Chris Best, Bega Valley Shire Council’s water and sewer manager, said.

“We are talking about transporting up to a million litres a day from Bega – an expensive task with trucks working non-stop around the clock.”

The Brogo-Bermagui Water Supply System is largely fed by the Brogo Dam and the Brogo River to supply Quaama, Cobargo, Bermagui, Beauty Point, Fairhaven, Wallaga Lake, Wallaga Lake Heights, Akolele and Wallaga Lake Koori Village.

Level 4 water restrictions have been introduced for these areas to limit the number of trucks needed to cart water every day until water quality improves.

Under the restrictions, water may only be used outdoors for essential health and safety purposes. The use of water outdoors for garden watering, car and boat washing, or for any other purpose is not permitted.

Mr Best said while the rain is welcome, it has brought with it some significant challenges.

“On the back of the Brogo River/Brogo Dam catchment being largely burnt by the Badja Forest and Werri Berri Fires and the heavy rainfall event over the past few days, the quality of the water available from this key source to supply these areas is now extremely poor,” he said.

“Brogo Dam rose from 10 per cent to overflowing in just one day. The water flowing into the dam is full of sediment, ash, soot and debris.

“With the turbidity levels subsequently being measured at well over 100 times the critical control level, the Brogo River supply has been isolated and emergency measures put in place.”

Brogo River (near the BVSC pump station on Tuesday) – poor water quality from rainfall across the catchment burnt by recent bushfires has compromised supply from this source.

Brogo River near the BVSC pump station on Tuesday – poor water quality from rainfall across the catchment burnt by recent bushfires has compromised supply from this source. Photo: Supplied.

“These emergency measures include carting water from Bega, recommissioning the supply of water from Couria Creek Weir in the north and the installation of flocculation and sedimentation tanks at Brogo.

“We are also working closely with the Australian Defence Force to secure a portable water treatment plant and NSW Health, WaterNSW, and the Department of Planning Industry and Environment are providing advice and support.

He urged people reliant on the Brogo-Bermagui supply to reduce their water use inside and outside immediately to help protect supply.

“Please think about how long you spend in the shower and how often you run your washing machine and dishwasher – every drop you save helps secure our water supply,” Mr Best said.

“Without a significant reduction in demand there is a possibility we will need to resupply water from the Brogo River before it has reached desired quality levels.”

If this occurs, the water supplied to the system will likely be discoloured and have a noticeable smoky taste and smell. Boiling water will likely be required to disinfect all water used for drinking or cooking. A boil water notice may also be necessary for alternative supplies from Couria Creek Weir and Tilba Dam.

“Bega Valley Shire Council wish to acknowledge the difficulty this situation will create for many people and businesses in an area of the Shire that has suffered from the recent bushfires and we thank everyone in advance for their understanding and cooperation during this difficult and challenging time,” Mr Best said.

For more information on water across our shire, visit Bega Valley Shire Council.

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