Rous County Council Chair, Keith Williams with the new water fill station in North Lismore.
Rous County Council Chair, Keith Williams with the new water fill station in North Lismore.

How much water will we need and where will it come from?

AT ITS June meeting, Rous County Council will debate a strategy plan to ensure water safety for the Northern Rivers.

But how much water will we need in the future?

Rous County Council chair, Cr Keith Williams, said the answer to that question lies in a complex, very technical formula.

"There is a NSW Water formula of what is called the Sustainable Yield," he said.

"(It looks) at long term weather patterns, what sources you do have and the history on how much you have been able to harvest from each one of those sources, and try to then model what this looks like in the future."

The final numbers will be unveiled in June, when the report is made public, Cr Williams said.

"(But) the clear results of that work is that demand continues to grow in the short and long term, and we need extra water sources," he said.

So, where could that water be coming from?


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The first approach to that question is reducing the amount of water used per person.

The second approach, Cr Williams said, is investigating groundwater.

"We have drilled a lot of wells in the last few years, and tested water from all over the Northern Rivers, and there is some groundwater available out there that could supplement our water supply," he said.

"What the testing has revealed is that not all the water is located in one place, and it becomes a fairly expensive proposition to develop bore fields in a number of locations, needing a lot of treatment plans."

The third option could be recycled water, Cr Williams explained.

"The major difficulty there is that there is not a single scheme in NSW that has ben licensed for recycled water to go back to the water supply," he said.

"We have schemes here where we supply the purple pipe network for outdoors and washing machines, like the Ballina one, and the one about to be rolled out in the Byron Shire.

"But there is no approved process to apply that (water) to the water supply, so it's hard for us to say that recycled water's a reliable water source for the future."

Cr Williams said Rous Council is currently looking at what its options are to partner up with universities and other institutions to get recycled water licenced in the state.

"These discussions are ongoing. We will probably report more about it in June," he said.

After the next Rous County Council meeting, if the document is adopted as the official strategy, it will be submitted to the State Government for sanctioning.

"They have to certify that we've met all the technical requirement for this to be a water security plan. Once that happens, they can fund the projects in the plan," Cr Williams said.

"We have to present a watertight case to the State Government, pardon the pun."