Guyra’s water woes will soon be at an end.
Work started this morning on the $13 million, 15 km pipeline from Guyra to Armidale’s Malpas Dam, expected to secure Guyra’s water supply, even in harshest drought conditions.
Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall and Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray together turned the first sod.
The NSW government will fund more than $12 million of the project, council making up the balance.
Thousands of locals signed a petition, and Mr Marshall lobbied the state government to get the pipeline funded.
The pipeline will supplement the existing water supply from Guyra’s dam and water treatment plant.
In good times, it will only be turned on a few times a year, while in drought conditions, it will ensure a plentiful supply of high quality water when Guyra dams are low.
“The pipeline is an absolute saviour for this community,” Mr Marshall said.
The pipeline, the politician argued, gives absolute water security to the community, and drought-proofs Guyra.
Guyra uses twice as much water as it can store; the town uses 423 mL each year, but the current storage capacity is 277 mL – and demand is increasing.
In the last few years, dry weather and population growth have put pressure on the water supply. Water restrictions could be triggered if Guyra Dam fell to 70 per cent capacity, and Malpas Dam to 60 per cent capacity.
Only last month, council expected Guyra to have water restrictions imposed by February. Malpas Dam was at 68.6 per cent capacity, and falling by 1.25 per cent per week, while Guyra Dam was falling more rapidly. A series of storms brought much-needed rain to the town, filling the dams.
The pipeline also improves water quality for residents, Mr Marshall argued, resolving the severe and harsh water quality issues the town occasionally faces. Low water levels have at times made the town’s water unfit for drinking or washing.
The pipeline also, Mr Marshall said, gives confidence for Guyra, one of the fastest-growing centres in New England, to continue further residential development, and for business and industry to expand.
Guyra & District Chamber of Commerce president Hans Hietbrink hoped the guaranteed water supply would attract intensive horticulture businesses to Guyra. Businesses will not have to ration to meet drought requirements.
The Costa tomato farm – the largest under glass in the Southern Hemisphere – announced a $60 million expansion in August, on the back of the pipeline announcement.
The pipeline will not, however, be a year-round supply for industry, as Cr Murray explained last year, but will guarantee certainty of supply.
While some Armidale locals are concerned about the pipeline “stealing” from Malpas Dam, it will not affect locals of that town.
The water drawn from it by Guyra users is only a drop in the ocean, so to speak; Malpas Dam can comfortably water a population of more than 70,000, let alone the 26,000 of Armidale and Guyra combined.
“There is enormous capacity for both communities to draw on Malpas, and not threaten any water security for anyone,” Mr Marshall said.
The pipeline should be completed within six months. Almost all work will be done during the day, to minimise disruptions.
Cr Murray hopes residents will understand that the benefits for Guyra outweigh short-term disturbances.
The pipeline, he believes, is Guyra’s biggest benefit from the merger with Armidale.
The old Guyra Shire Council looked at three options (the pipeline; raising the dam wall at Guyra; off-river storage), but lacked funds and facilities.
Cr Murray was glad that through Mr Marshall’s foresight and lobbying the government, the pipeline had come to fruition.
He also appreciated council staff’s hard work in putting a “water-tight” case to government.