Proposed water pipeline – saviour or cynical subterfuge?

By Craig Chappelle.

State Water Minister Dave Kelly’s announcement on Monday that the government plans to secure Denmark’s water supply via a $40-million pipeline from Albany has created a storm of commentary on social media and raised many questions – not least, which way water will travel.

There is no doubt that Denmark’s annual rainfall has steadily decreased over the past 20 or so years – from averages of 1000mm a year to less than 900mm – broadly in line with climate change predictions.

The past three years have been our driest on record, and this year is shaping up to be another.

According to the Water Corporation, the long-term average annual streamflow into the Quickup dam, Denmark’s primary source of water, is about 2000 Megalitres.

Quickup dam in September 2017. Photo courtesy Water Corporation

So far this year the dam has received just 305 ML – the lowest ever.

“Denmark’s water supply is solely reliant on rainfall,” Mr Kelly said.
“If we don’t act now, Denmark could run out of water before next winter.

“Water restrictions will save about 29-million litres of water, which is equivalent to about three weeks’ supply for the town.”

Beginning October 1 Water Corp will begin implementing measures including
• stage 5 water restrictions and a Waterwise Towns program
• helping Denmark customers use less scheme water
• carting water from Albany to supplement the local drinking water scheme until a new pipeline is built.

Stage 5 water restrictions, which mean watering gardens only once a week, were last implemented here in summer 2014-15.

Quickup dam in September 2019. Photo courtesy Water Corporation

The Waterwise Towns Program will include free showerhead swaps, irrigation checks, rainwater tank rebates, and free plumbing checks for households, to find leaks or identify other opportunities for water-use efficiencies.

“I have regular briefings from the Water Corporation, and not once have they brought up a supply risk in Denmark of this magnitude.”

Depending on dam levels, carting water from Albany could begin later in the year.

Water supplied through the Lower Great Southern Towns Water Supply Scheme is mostly sourced from groundwater around Albany, with the remainder from surface water from the Two Peoples Bay catchment.

Work on a pipeline to connect Denmark to the Scheme is expected to begin in 2020, once a route has been identified.

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