Dubbo Regional Council is bringing forward projects worth $2.1 million to improve treatment methods at its water treatment plants in Dubbo, Wellington and Geurie.
The new measures are being implemented in the central New South Wales (NSW) region as a precautionary Boil Water Alert remains in place for Wellington, where river turbidity, colour and higher levels of manganese continue to hamper water treatment to meet NSW Health standards.
The alert has been in place since 5 February, with the council continuing to provide bottled water to key facilities in the town, such as schools.
Projects the council is bringing forward include turbidity meters in the Macquarie River to give earlier warning when poor quality raw water is flowing, and installing UV systems at Wellington and Geurie later this year to assist in management of future water quality.
Council Director of Infrastructure Julian Geddes said they follow recent works that included filter remediation, pond relining and new dosing systems.
“Improvement in test results of water being treated at the Wellington plant has fluctuated using chemical dosing and more mechanical treatment is now being implemented,” he said.
“Extra treatment of the water in Wellington has also included adding aeration to the settlement pond and modifying backwash systems to try and improve the plant’s ability to process unusually poor quality raw water.”
The Dubbo region has long been plagued by problems with its water supply. Last year, WaterNSW warned that the lack of inflow from the Macquarie River could have seen towns run dry by the end of the year. But the council faced community backlash after imposing Level 4 water restrictions in November. Burrendong Dam, which services the area, is currently sitting at 6.7% capacity.
After experiencing above-average rainfall in February, Geddes said that the water quality issues in the region are unprecedented.
“We have not experienced these types of issues with the raw water before – even after coming out of previous droughts,” he said.
“While it is unfortunate this boil water alert remains in place, council encourages the community to remain alert and continue to boil water for drinking, washing fruit and vegetables, making baby formula and brushing teeth.”
Dubbo Regional Council owns and operates its own water supply system, sourcing about 70% of its potable water supply from the Macquarie River, with seven bores in the South Dubbo borefield accounting for the remaining 30%.
As well as improving water quality, the council is also focused on incorporating water sensitive urban design principles into its asset management.
It has received $30,000 as part of the NSW Government’s drought assistance package to transform two Dubbo roundabouts from water-thirsty spaces into drought-resilient landscapes.
This includes removing a dead willow gum from one of the roundabouts and planting native plants instead.
In a statement, the council said the willow, which is native to the Northern Tablelands, had proven a poor choice for the Western Plains climate and would be replaced with a pin oak.