13 December 2019

Water worries prompt suspension of road grading around Braidwood and Bungendore

| Alex Rea
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A QPRC Grader

A QPRC Grader working on the North Black Range bushfire. Photo: RFS, courtesy of Ned Dawson.

With a hot dry summer forecast, bushfires ravaging the landscape and rivers across the south-east of NSW slowing to a trickle, or ceasing to flow altogether, Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) has announced it will suspend grading on some of QPRC’s 750 km of unsealed roads.

Bungendore and Braidwood have been placed on Level 1 and Level 2 water restrictions respectively, with increased restrictions for Braidwood imminent as water sources dwindle and long-range weather forecasts predict no substantial rain any time in the foreseeable future.

Water tanked at the North Black Range Palerang bushfire

A QPRC water tanker helping out with the North Black Range Palerang bushfire. Photo: RFS, courtesy of Ned Dawson.

Grading a typical 1 km section of road uses between 30,000 and 40,000 litres of water. In areas surrounding Braidwood such as Majors Creek, Krawaree, Araluen, Mongarlowe, Oallen and Nerriga, natural water sources used for maintenance grading activities including local rivers, creeks and dams are drying up quickly.

Council is able to source water for some road works from closer to Queanbeyan, but travel distances of more than 20-30 km to work areas makes water carting for grading purposes unviable.

The lack of available water means crews are unable to properly compact a road surface when undertaking grading. Therefore, grading of some roads has been suspended.

Over the past two weeks, many of the Council’s graders and water tankers have been redeployed to build containment lines and help fight fires surrounding Braidwood. This equipment will likely remain on the fire ground until the fires subside.

A monthly grading schedule is published on the QPRC website. The December schedule has not yet been released as road crews review which roads it will be able to grade in the region and reschedule other roads as necessary.

“We thank the community for their patience and ask drivers using unsealed roads to pay attention to any temporary speed advisory signage, slow down where necessary and drive to the conditions,” a QPRC spokesperson said

In Braidwood, local carters of potable water can no longer draw from the town supply and must drive to Bungendore or Captains Flat for supply, increasing the costs to many rural consumers.

While the North Black Range bushfire to Braidwood’s west, and the Currowan Fire to Braidwood’s east have been front of mind for residents over the last two weeks, hoped-for reductions in daily water usage have not occurred.

Braidwood’s off-river storage dam has dropped from 90 per cent to below 85 per cent. The Shoalhaven River, where Braidwood’s water is sourced from, has ceased flowing, as has the Mongarlowe River and the Deua River.

The Shoalhaven River at Bombay

The Shoalhaven River at Bombay, near where Braidwood’s water supply is sourced. Photo: Supplied.

QPRC says they are “working with Government on options to prolong Braidwood’s water supply. This includes exemptions and changes to licensing arrangements to allow pumping of water from other sources”.

“We are also looking into options if a worst-case scenario eventuates and water sources are exhausted. Like other towns that are already on Level 5 restrictions around the country, this would see water needing to be trucked into Braidwood.

“In Bungendore, water usage increased slightly over the previous week and is still higher than current Level 1 targets. While it is not as dire as the situation in Braidwood, we are calling on everyone in Bungendore to reduce their use,” QPRC said.

WaterNSW Stream Flow data

WaterNSW Stream Flow data December 2019.

Water for Queanbeyan and surrounds comes from Icon Water in the ACT which increased the size of their storage capacity in recent years through the expansion of Cotter Dam. Icon Water recently launched a Care for Water campaign asking residents to reduce their usage in attempts to stave off any future restrictions which Queanbeyan and surrounds would be required to comply with.

Council staff will prioritise emergency grading where it is determined that a section of road is becoming dangerous. Urgent road hazards can be reported to Council through the Snap Send Solve app or by calling 1300 735 025.

Tips for water conservation can be found at QPRC.

Original Article published by Alex Rea on The RiotACT.

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