Orange residents hear update on council drought response

Orange residents have heard how Orange City Council has spent around $90 million on water infrastructure since the last drought. The tally includes state, federal council-funded projects on enlarging Suma Park Dam, the Macquarie Pipeline and the Orange to Carcoar pipeline.

The update came at two community water forums staged this week to keep residents in touch with details of the latest drought initiatives.

Around fifty people came to a forum in the Civic Theatre foyer on Monday evening while around thirty people attended a forum on Thursday at noon in the council chamber.

UPDATE : Around thirty residents turn out to hear a noon update on how Orange is facing the drought. Fifty people attended an evening forum earlier in the week.

The program included a welcome from Mayor Reg Kidd, presentations from council staff and opportunities for residents to ask their questions.

Orange Mayor Reg Kidd was delighted by the quality of the questions from members of the community.

“The people of Orange are doing a fantastic job when it comes to our community water restrictions,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “Orange’s long journey with responsible water use, has shown how it’s possible to get down to 140 litres per person per day.”

“It’s a sign of how much local residents are taking the Level 5 package seriously, that they came to these information forums with thoughtful questions about problems they are wrestling with.”

“It was good too for the community to see that councillors and council staff were putting a lot of time and effort into our response to the drought. It’s an approach that can give the community confidence.”

“It’s important to remember that the success of this package of measures won’t mean that we’ll be able to go back to some unsustainable level of water use, or that droughts will never happen.”

“What’s going to get us through this drought is a suite of effective water infrastructure, alongside a community where residents have learnt how to be water-wise, and water-responsible.”

Among the information presented at the community events :

  • The key elements of Orange’s expanded water infrastructure are designed to either store more water or to access sources of water during a drought.
  • Raising the height of Suma Pak Dam wall increased the storage capacity of the dam by 10%
  • Orange’s stormwater harvesting scheme sourced water after rain events which didn’t otherwise add any flow to Suma Park dam. Eg. Two rains events in September totalled 56 mm of rain. While there was no run-off from parched paddocks, the stormwater harvesting system produced enough water for eight days’ use.
  • The Macquarie pipeline connected a dam with a small catchment area (179 sq kms) to a river with a much larger catchment area (8,000 sq kms)

A positive response by the State Government to approaches by the council to lower the trigger point for pumping from the Macquarie could significantly increase the contribution the pipeline makes Orange’s water supply.

“Operating the pipeline with a trigger point of 119 megalitres a day before we can pump has been a real obstacle,” Cr Reg Kidd said. “We’re asking the government to let us work with the originally-modelled trigger-point of 38 megalitres a day as an ’emergency’ measure while the dam is below 50%.”

“We’re keen to get a decision from the government in the coming weeks.

“Our very conservative modelling suggests even if this drought continues, there will be enough water in the river to maintain the ecological health of the river and let us get enough water to prevent us going into Level 6 water restrictions.

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