Damned if you do, dammed if you don’t: Coast mayor wades into great water debate

A south-east Queensland mayor has claimed a new water source would be needed well before the Government’s timeline of 2035 and we should be debating recycled water and dams, at the very least.

Oct 12, 2023, updated Oct 12, 2023
Queensland's existing desalination plant on the Gold Coast.

Queensland's existing desalination plant on the Gold Coast.

Sunshine Coast mayor Mark Jamieson has skin in the game. A potential desalination plant could end up within his borders but he has been assured that there was no specific site as yet while a business case was done by the State Government.

But Jamieson said water security for SEQ had been issue for the past decade and was not something that was created by the recent population surge in Queensland.

Water desalination has been identified by the Palaszczuk Government as the best option however, it recycled water was a likely backup.

The Government has said it would maintain Purified Recycled Water (PRW) as a drought response measure when the grid reached 40 per cent and would explore further opportunities to provide PRW to sectors including power, hydrogen, and agriculture to take pressure off Wivenhoe Dam.

The Government’s reluctance to include recycled water as a main option was likely because it did not want to endure another bruising debate on an issue that could be a major distraction.

Recycled water went to a vote in Toowoomba in 2006 and was lost amid emotional debate and the labelling the city as Poowoomba. The last major dam issue was the Traveston Dam which was scuttled by the Federal Government.

“Water security is not a new issue for SEQ generally, or the Sunshine Coast specifically,” Jamieson said.

“It has been recognised for well over a decade that a new water supply source, or sources, need to be identified and established, given the area’s significant growth and the impacts of a changing climate on existing storages and water supply sources.

“A safe, available and reliable water supply is crucial to the future sustainability, viability, wellbeing and economic prosperity of any community.

“For these reasons, the Queensland Government should be encouraging a broader conversation about water security and exploring all available water supply and storage options – not just desalination.

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“Communities should be informed about, and engaged on, options such as recycled water, local harvesting, desalination, additional bulk water storages – just to name a few.

“What should be avoided is limiting the options available and making costly investment decisions that are not supported by communities and deliver little benefit to the ongoing water needs of a growing region.

“Council also understands that a solution is likely required earlier than 2035.  Our Council remains open to working with SEQWater and the Queensland Government to explore all available options.

“Council wants the Queensland Government and SEQWater to ensure the community and council are properly informed of potential solutions and the likely costs to residents of these solutions.

“We also want to ensure that the community and council are appropriately engaged in the decision-making process.”



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