What is the funding source for the Future Water Project 2060?

The sources of funding for the implementation of the Future Water Project 2060 are:

  • Current and future water supply users.
  • Developer contributions.
  • State and federal grant opportunities.

How much water does the region use each day?

The current 5-year average water consumption for our region is 11.3 gigalitres per year, or 83% of Rocky Creek Dam’s capacity every year.

What has the decision-making process involved so far?

In 2014, Rous County Council adopted its Future Water Strategy. This built upon the existing long-term water security strategy adopted by Rous County Council in 1995. The Future Water Strategy 2014 recommended detailed investigations to assess the suitability of increased use of groundwater as a new water source, and if groundwater was not suitable, investigate complementary options such as water reuse and desalination. Now that those investigations have been completed, Rous County Council can determine the preferred water source option to meet our long-term water security needs. The result is the Future Water Project 2060.

Why does our region need new infrastructure for its water security? 

Our growing population means demand will exceed supply by the end of this decade. At the same time, a changing climate means less reliable rainfall and more extreme weather, including droughts. Water-saving measures on their own are not enough to meet the future water security needs. Currently, the region’s principal supply source is Rocky Creek Dam, which has approximately 13.5 gigalitres at 100% storage capacity. The storage is relatively small when compared to the population that it services. This is due to the high average rainfall that occurs in the Northern Rivers. 

Why is Dunoon Dam the preferred long-term water supply option for the Northern Rivers?

In considering options for the future, Rous County Council conducted extensive assessments to weigh up environment, social and economic impacts. The result of these assessments indicate the Dunoon Dam is the preferred long-term water supply option when compared to demand management and water conservation, groundwater sources and water re-use.

Where is the location of the proposed dam?

This map provides the approximate location and size of the proposed Dunoon Dam. 

How much will the dam cost?

The Dunoon Dam project is a significant undertaking. To allow comparison of the options available to augment the water supply, Rous County Council has approximated a capital cost of $220 million to construct the dam. Further works are required to improve our understanding of all construction and planning costs for this project.

Do developer contributions/funds contribute to the dam’s costs?

Yes. Developer contributions will be one of the several funding sources for the Dunoon Dam. Rous County Council will update the Development Servicing Plan based on the Future Water Project 2060.

How are we addressing the heritage impact at the Dunoon Dam site? 

Cultural heritage remains a key issue for the Dunoon Dam project. Rous County Council and the traditional custodians of the water supply catchment have been working together through our shared mutual respect for land and water since 2003. These relationships will provide an opportunity for Rous County Council to be informed of the traditional custodian’s views on the Future Water Project 2060. 

A preliminary Heritage Impact Assessment was undertaken for the proposed Dunoon Dam in 2013. The assessment reviewed the Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal history of the Dunoon area. A field survey was undertaken based on research completed during the assessment phase. This survey found numerous Aboriginal sites.

The assessment recommended that further investigations be undertaken, subject to relevant approvals after all other water augmentation options have been considered. The report further recommended consultation with Aboriginal stakeholder groups to determine the appropriate methods of protection for artefacts and to work collaboratively to define alternative opportunities.

How are we considering the impacts of Dunoon Dam on the environment?

Preliminary terrestrial and aquatic ecology assessments were undertaken for the proposed Dunoon Dam in 2013. The reports provided details on mitigation measures to minimise impacts on both terrestrial and aquatic ecology, including design considerations and construction phase actions. The reports also detailed potential offset actions that could address most of the impacts resulting from the dam’s construction. However, it was identified some residual impacts will still be present, but these were considered tolerable. Significant changes in environmental planning legislation has occurred since that time, and further assessment works are needed to determine the required offset commitments to allow the project to proceed. 

Rous County Council’s preference is for all offset requirements to be addressed locally and within the proposed dam catchment. This would be subject to the offset assessment, and include revegetation works and stewardship protection within the buffer areas of the dam. Further works may be required elsewhere within the catchment. In addition, river reach enhancement works will also be needed. These works will be both creek and riparian restoration activities. The report indicated that parts of the Terania Creek catchment would be a suitable location for these works.

Will Whian Whian Falls be affected by the proposed dam?

No. The proposed Dunoon Dam will not affect Whian Whian Falls. Based on survey works undertaken in 2013 the proposed height of the dam does not inundate Whian Whian Falls.  In fact, the area may be able to be enhanced, with nature walking tracks to other recreational areas designed as part of the proposed dam. 

What are the downstream impacts?

An environmental flow assessment was undertaken to determine if a water release regime could be derived that would maintain or improve the downstream environment. This water release regime considered both the ecological needs and other water use needs. The assessment determined that a preferred water release regime is unlikely to affect either the environment or downstream water users.

How many hectares will the dam cover?

At the full supply level for the 50-gigalitre Dunoon Dam, the inundation area covers approximately 240 hectares.

What is the catchment size?

The approximate size of the Dunoon Dam catchment is 50 square kilometres

How much water will the dam hold?

The full supply level for the dam is 50 gigalitres or 50 billion litres of water.

There are two Dunoon Dam sizes, a 20 gigalitre and 50 gigalitre option? Why is the 50 gigalitre option preferred?

In 1995, RCC nominated the proposed Dunoon Dam as a future regional water source, to be developed as required to meet future demands for water. Based on feedback from our community, RCC then developed the Future Water Strategy in 2014. This strategy considered a staged Dunoon Dam with an initial 20 gigalitre capacity to be augmented in the future to a 50 gigalitre capacity.  A staged approach was preferred in the 2014 Future Water Strategy as it met the 2060 planning horizon and it was thought that this initial capacity may minimise both cultural heritage and ecological impacts. In the most recent analysis, the 50 gigalitre capacity Dunoon Dam proposal is now preferred based on a whole-of-life cost and secure yield assessment. If the 20 gigalitre Dunoon Dam was to proceed - it would be likely that an augmentation to the 50 gigalitre would be required and would occur in the future.  It is considered more appropriate that all matters relevant to the larger size be addressed now, as opposed to deferring these matters to some point in the future.

What is Rous County Council doing with the land owned at the proposed Dunoon Dam site?

Land that is owned by Rous County Council is currently being leased or agisted. This will continue until such time as the project has started the formal planning approval stage.

Is the design complete?

No. Only concept designs have been completed at this stage. Advancements of engineering design will accompany the environmental assessment process, as the two elements are interconnected.

What is the dam wall constructed of?

The dam will be constructed of concrete. The method of construction is a roller and compacted concrete method. This has been selected to reduce the impact on vegetation communities around the dam-wall site. This allows the dam to have a much smaller footprint than a traditional earth embankment dam such as Rocky Creek Dam.

Do you need to construct another treatment plant?

No. Water from the proposed Dunoon Dam will be pumped to the existing Nightcap Water Treatment Plant adjacent to Rocky Creek Dam. Rous County Council has considered the augmentation of this facility as part of the assessment process for the Future Water Project 2060.

How will you get the water to the treatment plant?

A pump station and pipeline will be constructed as part of the works.

Can the community access the facility?

Yes. Community facilities will be part of the overall Dunoon Dam project. However, there are currently no specific details available on these items.

How will you ensure drinking water is safe if people can use the dam for recreation purposes?

Opportunities exist for low impact (electric motor and sail) watercraft to be able to use the dam area. This will be like other local water supply dams such as Clarrie Hall Dam in the Tweed Shire Council area. A comprehensive risk assessment will be undertaken to ensure that any such use of the dam will not impact quality or safety for the regional water supply. This will be undertaken in later stages of the project should the dam proceed.

Will camping be allowed around the dam?

No. Camping at the Dunoon Dam will not be permitted.

Are you considering a hydro scheme?

A preliminary assessment of the viability of mini hydroelectric generation has been completed. This assessment determined that a hydro scheme is viable and for further engineering investigations to be undertaken. These investigations are ongoing.

Are you considering a pumped hydro scheme?

A pumped hydro scheme has not been considered as water quality issues, infrastructure upgrades and the elevation of the two dams are not conducive for such a scheme.

Will the dam help with flooding?

The Dunoon Dam is principally a water supply dam. However, there is expected to be some benefit to the local areas near the dam, including the village of The Channon. Further investigations are required to be undertaken to determine flood mitigation benefits for downstream communities such as Lismore. 

What happens during floods?

New South Wales has some of the most stringent requirements for large dams. Based on these requirements, the risks to downstream areas are considered to be insignificant. Water releases as part of environmental flow requirements would remain below bank full level and would match pre-dam conditions experienced at that time.

Rous County Council is not the combat agency during floods, but will continue to work with the SES and other agencies by providing appropriate information to protect downstream residents during times of major floods. The Dunoon Dam will provide minor flood mitigation benefit for communities immediately downstream of the dam, namely The Channon.

With a new dam, will the community still be encouraged to use water efficiently?

Everybody has a role in saving water and using this resource wisely is something Rous County Council will always support. We still need to conserve water use as we all have a responsibility to share this resource with each other and the environment. 

How many jobs will the dam construction generate and will the focus be on local employment?

Approximately 1,000 jobs will be created during the project’s two- and half-year construction phase. In addition, as part of the works to improve the environment surrounding the dam, it is estimated that 6 to 10 jobs will be created for a period of up to 9 years.

Rous County Council’s purchasing policies provide an opportunity for local suppliers and contractors to be recognised and accounted for in the decision-making process. Given the nature of this project and the specialist technical skills required, local employment is not expected to be a large portion of the workforce that is needed for this project.

Once construction starts, how long will it take to build?

It is estimated that once dam construction works have commenced, it will take approximately 2.5 years to complete.

Will there be buffer zones around the dam?
The recommended buffer zone has an average width of 180 metres from the adopted maximum inundation level, and occupies approximately 224 hectares of land surrounding the storage.

Are there any commercialisation opportunities being considered at the site?

This has not been determined at this stage. These opportunities will be considered as part of an overall recreational facilities master plan for the dam, should the project proceed. This plan will determine the nature and extent of possible commercial activities. Any commercial activity would need to consider economic, safety and environmental risks. Commercial activities that are likely to be considered are eco-tourism (daytime only) and limited hospitality services.

Security and anti-social behaviour have been issues at Rocky Creek Dam. How will that be addressed at the Dunoon Dam site?
This has not been determined at this stage. However, security considerations have been considered in the concept plans. Future crime prevention and safety through deliberate design will be undertaken in later stages of the development.

Can groundwater cater for the future water needs of our region?

Following the completion of the initial Future Water Strategy in 2014, Rous County Council has undertaken extensive investigations into the use of groundwater for our future water supply. These investigations indicate that groundwater by itself will not be a cost-effective option for future water supply. This is based on several factors, including water quality, reliability and costs to extract and treat.

Will the use of groundwater for town water supply impact on agriculture and surface water, such as streams and rivers?

The Future Water Project 2060 proposes the use of the Marom Creek Water Treatment Plant and existing groundwater bores in Alstonville to cater for the short-to-medium-term water demands.

To ensure that there are no impacts on agriculture or the environment, Rous County Council will undertake robust local hydrogeological assessments of aquifers. This is typically undertaken via pumping tests of groundwater bores and monitoring programs of other nearby bores, streams and rivers.

Why didn’t you decide on desalination, groundwater, potable or non-potable reuse?

Rous County Council has completed a social, environmental and economic assessment for water source options. It was determined based on the methodology used, that desalination, groundwater and indirect or direct potable reuse options are more expensive for the community over the long-term and do not provide the same level of water security. 

Can we share water with Tweed or the Gold Coast?

No. Through the investigation process this has been determined as a long-term option only, which does not necessarily improve the security of the Rous County Council water supply network.

Are rainwater tanks a viable option to secure water for the long-term?

Rainwater tanks will not give us the reliable water supply that is needed. During the recent 2019 drought, Rous County Council observed an unprecedent demand on the town water supply from rural landowners that solely rely on rainwater tanks. Rainwater will assist in achieving our water conservation targets, but on their own, they are not a long-term option to secure the region's water supply. Rous County Council has a generous rainwater tank rebate program, which is on target to reduce the demand on the region’s water supply. Demand management on its own will not meet our future needs for water.

Are new developments required to include onsite water storage (such as rainwater tanks)? 

Yes, all new residential developments are required to have rainwater tanks. This is a state-based requirement known as BASIX. BASIX aims to reduce the potable water consumption of all new residential developments by 40% based on the average potable water consumption of a pre-BASIX home. This is achieved with rainwater tanks and water efficient appliances or fixtures. To demonstrate that all new residential development meets the BASIX requirements, all proponents for new dwellings must successfully create a BASIX certificate and submit this as part of the development application process. 

Rous County Council has previously assessed the performance of BASIX compliant properties in 2013 against certificate data. This study found that the average consumption predictions from the BASIX tool reasonably approximate the metered averages and Rous County Council has adopted those water savings in the Demand Forecast report.

As the BASIX program is a state-based requirement, Local Governments cannot enforce a higher standard of efficiency for new residential development.

Has Rous County Council explored the capture and treatment of storm water runoff?

Unfortunately, given the topographical nature of our region, this option is mainly a localised water supply solution. Several stormwater reuse options were investigated in the 2014 Future Water Strategy and determined not to be viable.

Has Rous County Council explored the option of using wastewater that is discharged from sewage treatment plants for potable purpose?

Currently, significant regulatory challenges exist with direct potable water reuse schemes. There is no direct potable water reuse scheme operating in Australia. While there is a national framework for considering these schemes, significant and sustained investment is needed to demonstrate the efficacy and treatment requirements of the scheme before it can be approved by the relevant NSW agencies.

Why hasn’t Rous County Council pushed for local councils to insist on water recycling for non-drinking purposes for all new developments?

Dual reticulation (water recycling) is a decision for local councils that provide sewerage services and this decision is based on several factors including the ability for the community to afford such an option. This was an action in the 1995 strategy. It was recognised at this time that there is cost, environmental and social factors associated with dual reticulation schemes and that the local councils are best positioned to determine if these options should be pursued.

Why can’t we get the government to ban activities such as car washing and watering sports grounds that use potable water?  

Currently there is only a mechanism to restrict the water use during periods of drought. Local councils do not have the authority to ban specific water use activities during non-water restriction (drought) times. Rous County Council continues to support water conservation measures, but these actions on their own are not enough to secure our future water needs.

Where is the report on indigenous consultation?

The Dunoon Dam Heritage Report contains culturally sensitive information and views from the aboriginal stakeholder group and as such this information can not be shared with the public.

As required by the Government Information (Public Access) Act 2009, Council must not disclose information that would reveal aboriginal traditional knowledge. A redacted report is normally the process to allow specific sections of the assessment to be publicly available. Unfortunately, this is not that practical, an appropriate process would require Rous County Council to consult with key contributors to the report and seek their concurrence for a redacted version before it is released.

Should the Dunoon Dam project proceed, a review of the report, along with further consultation with both traditional custodians and any other interested groups, would occur. Any knowledge that is provided from the traditional custodians of the area must remain confidential. However Council would provide a publicly available report that removes any sensitive information. This report would be publicly available once support from the Aboriginal consultation stakeholder group is received.

The IWCM does provide a summary of this report. Please refer to section 7.8 on page 33.

For the proposed Dunoon Dam, what will the main access roads be for the public and service vehicles?

At this early stage these exact details are not yet known. Preliminary investigations indicate that if a new access road is needed, then it could potentially be located south of Dunoon and run from Dunoon Road to the dam site. Should Rous County Council decide to move ahead with the project, a detailed assessment will need to be completed to determine whether a new access road is the most suitable option. This assessment will also look closely at the suitability of alternative access arrangements, including possible upgrades or changes to the area’s existing road network.

What will the impact be on Dunoon village particularly in regard to traffic during and after construction of the proposed Dunoon Dam?

Unfortunately, at this early stage these exact details are also not yet known. If Rous County Council decides to move ahead with the project, a detailed assessment of traffic and other transport impacts will need to be completed.

What is the life of the Rocky Creek dam wall?

Currently, the remaining asset life of the Rocky Creek dam wall structure is 170 years. However, due to ongoing, regular inspections and other maintenance works it is possible this remaining asset life could be exceeded.

What would the diameter of the pipe be for the pipeline to the water treatment plant, and will it be buried?

Generally speaking, Rous County Council’s water pipelines are always buried except for creek crossings, where soils are excessively corrosive, or in areas of hard rock. Preliminary investigations indicate the pipeline from the proposed Dunoon Dam to the existing Nightcap Water Treatment Plant will be 900 millimetres in diameter and buried. However, it is possible part of the pipeline may be above ground in the area close to the Nightcap Water Treatment Plant due to the presence of hard rocky outcrops and escarpments.

If approved, when would Rous County Council intend to start the Dunoon Dam project and how long would it take to complete?

Current project timelines estimate it would take at least six years to complete the detailed planning, cultural heritage, environmental, ecological, engineering, design, survey and geotechnical assessments needed before any dam construction works could start. It is important to remember there is always the possibility these detailed assessments could reveal the dam’s construction is not viable. If the dam is approved for construction following these detailed assessments, at this stage we expect it would take around two years to build.

Will Dunoon Road be subject to wear and tear and will residents be exposed to noise pollution from this?

Construction impacts will need to be thoroughly assessed before any works start. This would include identifying measures that need to be implemented to minimise noise, traffic and other impacts on the community during construction as well as the road remediation and other restoration works required post construction.

Why does Rous County Council not consider water storage at other sites closer to coastal communities that are currently using Rocky Creek as their water supply?

During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Rous County Council completed a review of possible locations for surface water reservoirs. Following community consultation, the preferred location near Federal was changed to Dunoon. Since this decision was made, Rous County Council’s investigations have focused on the proposed Dunoon Dam site. This location at Dunoon was also preferred as it lessens the need for an additional water treatment plant.

Is there a plan to eliminate flushing toilets?

This is a matter for the NSW Government. Rous County Council suggests residents direct this enquiry to their local member of the NSW Parliament.