Rous urges community to use less water to delay need for restrictions

20 September 2023

With the Bureau of Meteorology announcing an El Niño, Rous County Council is asking the Northern Rivers community to use less water now to help delay the need for water restrictions. 

The forecast for a drier-than-average spring, combined with higher temperatures, is expected to put more pressure on the region’s water sources. Water levels at Rous's primary water source, Rocky Creek Dam, have steadily dropped due to low inflows and people using more water. The dam is currently at 86 per cent capacity.

Water restrictions may be introduced early in response to continued low inflows and a dry seasonal outlook, according to Rous’s General Manager, Phillip Rudd. 

“As a community, it’s important we make every effort to conserve water now. While many in the Northern Rivers will be grateful for the spell of dry weather, without rain we will enter water restrictions. If the prolonged dry period continues and people do not reduce their use, we are likely to face restrictions before Christmas,” Mr. Rudd said.

“During long periods of dry weather, the demand on our water supply increases. People use water to wash their properties, cars and to water their gardens. We’re asking the community to think twice, especially before using water outdoors. Water is a limited natural resource, and we are all responsible for its efficient use,” Mr. Rudd said.

During dry weather, Rous also experiences an increase in demand for water from water carters who are contracted by residents to replenish rainwater tanks. 

Permanent conservation measures include:

  • Water outdoors in the early morning or late afternoon, between 6.00am and 10.00am or between 3.00pm and 10.00pm.
  • Use hand-held hoses that are fitted with an on/off trigger nozzle. 
  • Clean vehicles and boats on your lawn using a hose fitted with an on/off nozzle; and  
  • Don’t use water to clean driveways, paths or paved areas, except for health and/or safety reasons or when using a high-pressure cleaner.  

Indoors, replacing a shower with a water-efficient model is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to reduce water use. An inefficient showerhead can use between 15 and 25 litres of water every minute, whereas an efficient WELS 5 star rated one uses as little as 4.5 litres every minute.

Rous is actively working to ensure the Northern Rivers has a secure and resilient water supply that will meet the community’s needs through its Future Water Project 2060. Phillip Rudd said, in addition to the St Helena Pipeline Project “we are taking immediate steps to secure water for the region now by developing new and enhanced groundwater schemes at Alstonville and Woodburn. To meet the challenge of a growing population and an increasingly variable climate, we are taking an ‘all options on the table’ approach to long-term planning. This involves also investigating a range of potential water supply options, including new groundwater sources, purified recycled water for drinking, desalination and surface water”.


Every drop counts: Local businesses taking action to reduce water consumption

7 September 2023

Thirteen local business and schools in the Richmond Valley Council, Byron Shire Council and Ballina Shire Council regions are proactively taking steps to improve their water efficiency and reduce the demand on the region’s water supplies. The timing is especially important ahead of the dry period predicted for the Northern Rivers.

Through Rous County Council’s (Rous) Sustainable Water Partner Pilot Program, participating local businesses and schools are provided with bespoke advice relating to their current water usage and an action plan on how they can make changes to reduce their consumption of drinking water.

Rous is sponsoring the onsite audits with water efficiency consultants from The Water Conservancy, who examine how water is used and detail opportunities to maximise savings. This involves comparing water use against similar businesses and identifying any system deficiencies, including leaks.

“The effective investigation of water use through the Sustainable Water Partner Pilot Program can identify remarkable opportunities to make significant savings – sometimes as much as 30-60% of total water use,” says Andrew Logan, Group Manager Planning and Delivery at Rous.

“We know that many local businesses rely on larger volumes of water for their day-to-day operations, so by working together we can find ways not to waste water and, where possible, reduce use and save.

“With a dry period expected in many parts of Australia, including the Northern Rivers, we all have a shared responsibility to reduce our consumption and preserve our precious drinking water. With everyone taking individual steps to reduce our own water use, we can make an overall impact for the region.”

“It’s integral to our vision to enable a more conscious and efficient approach to water use in Australia,” says Chris Philpot, chief Executive Officer at The Water Conservancy. “It has been fabulous to have the opportunity to help businesses across the region with Rous County Council.”

The Sustainable Water Partner Pilot Program builds on the success of work undertaken previously, which included businesses using more than five megalitres of water per annum. Since 2019, water efficiency plans for 16 businesses, including holiday parks, have been completed – working towards improving water usage in the region.

The action plans include fast, achievable, and large-scale operational water savings. Savings by previous program participants include:

  • installing a fresh-water chlorinator for an indoor pool that has potentially saved more than 470,000 litres of water annually;
  • connecting toilet and garden irrigation systems to recycled water that has saved more than 4 million litres of drinking water annually; and
  • upgrading taps and irrigation systems, and installing water leak monitors, is estimated to have saved a school $1.6 million litres of water annually. 

One of this year's participants, Cherry Street Sports Club, has found new opportunities to save water through their recent onsite audit.

“At the Cherry Street Bowls Club, we have a keen sense of community responsibility, and we are passionate about the environment and doing our bit to reduce the amount of water we use – especially with the forecast of an expected hot and dry summer,” says Brad Benson, Operations Manager, Cherry Street Sports Club.

“Even though the club has bore-water for irrigation and rainwater tanks for toilet flushing, the onsite audit found opportunities to reduce the amount of water used in the facility.”

As businesses and schools opt into the pilot program at a cost, Rous is offering participants rebates to implement their unique water efficiency projects.

The Sustainable Water Partner Pilot Program is part of the Rous Regional Demand Management Plan 2023-2026.

“On behalf of Rous, I sincerely thank participating local businesses and schools that are taking action to reduce their own water consumption and are working with us to improve awareness of water conservation in businesses and schools across the region,” says Andrew Logan. 

Participating organisations include:

  • Evans Head Bowling Club
  • Evans Head Aquatic Centre
  • Ballina War Memorial Pool
  • Alstonville Aquatic Centre
  • Ballina RSL
  • Cherry Street Sports Club
  • Southern Cross Public School
  • Ballina Public School
  • St Finbarrs Primary School
  • The Arabella Garden Inn
  • Alstonville Settlers Motel
  • Waves Motel
  • The Federal Hotel


Important information regarding Emigrant Creek Dam

1 September 2023

Rous County Council (Rous) is working in close partnership with New South Wales Environment Protection Authority (NSW EPA) to investigate an allegation of pesticide dumping in Brooklet. 

The NSW EPA has inspected the area and has not identified any physical evidence to support the allegation. Extensive water sampling in the area has been undertaken and will be analysed by laboratories as a priority. 

The Emigrant Creek Water Treatment Plant (WTP) was offline for essential maintenance prior to the allegation being reported to EPA. 

Additionally, a ‘High Alert’ status is currently active for Emigrant Creek Dam as blue-green algae is present in the water. Therefore, the following precautionary advice for the public remains in place: Rous advises the public to avoid swimming or any direct contact with the water both upstream and downstream of Emigrant Creek Dam until further notice; and to refrain from consuming water from Emigrant Creek or using it for any domestic or agricultural purposes until it is advised safe to do so. 

The safety of residents and the quality of drinking water supplied by Rous are the highest priority, and we will continue to work with stakeholders on this important matter.  

Rous regularly conducts water quality risk assessments to identify potential risks such as this and has control measures in place to address potential hazards. In particular, the water treatment process is specifically designed to be able to treat and remove contaminants of this nature in order to ensure that the water supplied from Rous meets Australian Drinking Water Guidelines.

Further information will be provided as it becomes available. 


Blue-green algae at Emigrant Creek Dam - High Alert

16 August 2023 (update from 2 August 2023)

The most recent round of laboratory testing indicates that the concentration of potentially toxic species of blue-green algae have continued to increase at Emigrant Creek Dam. The dam is now in a High Alert status.

Due to the elevated blue-green algae levels, it is important that everyone takes the following precautions:

  • Avoid contact: Avoid swimming or any direct contact with the water both upstream and downstream of Emigrant Creek Dam until further notice.
  • Do not consume the water: Refrain from consuming water from Emigrant Creek or using it for any domestic or agricultural purposes until the algae levels return to a safe condition.
  • Stay informed: Keep an eye on updates to stay informed about the situation and when it is safe to resume normal activities.

Blue-green algae can produce toxins that may pose health risks to humans and other animals. Exposure to contaminated water may cause skin irritation, gastrointestinal discomfort, and other severe health issues. Please follow advised safety measures to protect your health and well-being.

Our team is actively monitoring the situation and are working to address the issue. Regular water quality tests and assessments will continue to be conducted, and we will provide updates as the situation evolves.

Please note that Emigrant Creek Dam Water Treatment Plant is not currently supplying water to the public.


Blue-green algae concentrations have increased at Emigrant Creek Dam

2 August 2023 (update from 4 July 2023)

Despite a gradual decrease in blue-green algae concentrations throughout the past month, recent laboratory testing indicate that potentially toxic blue-green algae levels have once again increased in Emigrant Creek Dam. The dam is currently in a Medium Alert status.

Due to the elevated blue-green algae levels, it is important that everyone takes the following precautions:

  • Avoid contact: Avoid swimming or any direct contact with the water both upstream and downstream of Emigrant Creek Dam until further notice.
  • Do not consume the water: Refrain from consuming water from Emigrant Creek or using it for any domestic or agricultural purposes until the algae levels return to a safe condition.
  • Stay informed: Keep an eye on updates to stay informed about the situation and when it is safe to resume normal activities.

Blue-green algae can produce toxins that may pose health risks to humans and other animals. Exposure to contaminated water may cause skin irritation, gastrointestinal discomfort, and other severe health issues. Please follow advised safety measures to protect your health and well-being.

Our team is actively monitoring the situation and are working to address the issue. Regular water quality tests and assessments will continue to be conducted, and we will provide updates as the situation evolves.

Please note that Emigrant Creek Dam Water Treatment Plant is not currently supplying water to the public.


The Journey to Myall Creek

Dhiirranhi ngiyani ganunga.  We remember them

18 July 2023

Each year, hundreds of people from across the country gather on Sunday of the June long weekend to commemorate the Myall Creek Massacre, near Bingara (NSW).  

“On 10 June 1838, a gang of stockmen led by a squatter rode into Myall Creek Station and brutally murdered twenty-eight unarmed (Aboriginal) women, children, and old men. Their bringing to justice marked a defining moment in Australian history,” as shared by official signage at the memorial site. 

“On 10 June 2000, descendants of those who were killed, those who killed, and those who brought it to justice joined hundreds in a grassroots reconciliation movement to dedicate a Memorial to those who died. It raised awareness of Myall Creek as part of our national identity and as a formative reconciliation event. It became part of our shared history.” 

Rous County Council is continuing the process of reconciliation between Rous and Aboriginal people through its Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP).  In 2023, this saw Rous support the attendance of a small group of people to travel more than 360kms to Bingara to attend the Myall Creek massacre memorial event. 

Rous staff Greg Telford, Anthony Acret, Stuart Hood, Uncle Roy Gordon and Helen McNeil & her family were joined by Rous Councillor Big Rob, Uncle Mick Roberts, Aunty Thelma James and Mebbingarri Cindy Roberts in commemorating the Myall Creek massacre. Many of those who attended the event are also part of the Reconciliation Action Plan Advisory Group (RAPAG) which aims to maintain and enhance Rous’ relationship with local First Nations people and communities.

On the journey out to Myall Creek some of the group were lucky enough to be invited on to a property at Jubullum nearby Tabulam on the banks of the Timbarra River. It was here that they met with Uncle Lewis Walker who very generously gifted the group some ochre for use at Myall Creek. He also donated several Coolamons to the group that will be displayed in Rous’ Molesworth St office.

After the visit in Tabulam, the whole group united to attend the ceremony at Myall Creek Hall. Aunty Thelma noted that the event “brings home that part of the history Australia would like to forget.” There were speeches from the Myall Creek memorial committee which included an emotional reflection from Keith Munro on what the memorial means to the people gathered, to Australia and the world. He reminded everyone present that the local Indigenous people didn’t have to forgive for what happened but that the ceremony was a step forward towards true reconciliation. He warned the crowd that to take the walk up the hill past the massacre site was to become a different person. 

The group gathered left the hall on foot to walk across Country in a group of a few hundred. They crossed Myall Creek itself before making tracks up a hill through beautiful bushland to the Myall Creek amphitheatre - a purpose built gathering and performance circle. At the circle the events were many and varied including speeches, performances and songs for a number of hours. There were performances from the Ngambaa Dhalaay Dancers, the Gomeroi Dancers and the Tingha Nucoorilma Dancers. The ceremonies then moved to the original memorial site located in the forest on top of the ridge where the memorial stone stands. Uncle Mick Roberts said the day was filled with “a mixed emotion of reflection” and enjoyed the experience of seeing many different faces from a range of cultures and ages. “It was very uplifting and proud to see the many Australians coming together,” he said.

Rous Councillor Big Rob attended Myall Creek with the group and described it as “a learning experience like no other.” He emphasised the importance of seeing “descendants of both Aboriginal and the non-Aboriginal people who wronged them so many years ago standing together to remember the wrongs of the past.” Stuart Hood reinforced this idea, noting “There were so many emotions and I would recommend a visit to Myall Creek for everyone.” Helen McNeil, who attended the ceremony with her family, explained that as someone who usually has no trouble with words there were times when she had none. The key memory that was imprinted in Helen’s mind was the healing capacity of love: “despite our shared history the overwhelming message was one of love, youth and the future.”

Rous County Council’s Reconciliation Liaison Officer Greg Telford alongside Catchment & Cultural Awareness Manager Anthony Acret were responsible for the idea to take a group representing Rous to the annual ceremony. Greg said he felt for the families – both persecutors & victims – and commended them for their “courage and tenacity” in creating an event of this nature. Anthony reflected that the “sombre nature of the occasion was countered by the love and respect that was provided by all who attended.” He added, “The opportunity to spend time with each other on such an occasion will always be treasured.”

Greg summarised the Myall Creek memorial experience well, saying:
“The camaraderie that happened between all the staff and RAPAG members along with family that attended was magic and hopefully more events and trips like this will happen in the future. Personally, I felt a little excited that events like this can start happening right across the country – where massacres have occurred –  if the momentum can catch on in other communities.”

Widjabul woman Mebbingarri Cindy Roberts underlined that the “unity and respect for each other was beautiful” over the weekend and reminded us that “cultural knowledge and sharing was deadly and brainstorming together made magic happen.”  

“Spirit bringing us all together for a reason”, she said. 

You can read more about the Myall Creek massacre and the annual memorial ceremony by heading to the website.


Celebrating NAIDOC Week

18 July 2023

National NAIDOC Week celebrations are held across Australia in the first week of July each year to celebrate and recognise the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. NAIDOC Week is an opportunity for all Australians to learn about First Nations cultures and histories and participate in celebrations of the oldest, continuous living cultures on earth.

On Wednesday, 5 July, our second All Staff meeting for 2023 was held and was timed to coincide with NAIDOC Week. 

We were invited by the Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council to participate in their NAIDOC celebrations in Ballina, in the land of the Nyangbul people who are part of the Bundjalung Nation. 

Like many in our community, the Cabbage Tree Island community has faced tremendous hardship over the past 12 months with traumatic flood events forcing its Indigenous community into indefinite temporary housing, while JALI LALC and the ‘Cabbo’ community works with Government to plan a complex rebuild process.

The February and March 2022 floods also destroyed the Rous Cultural Environmental and Information Centre that had been established within the Lismore Visitor Information Centre as part of the community engagement process associated with our Reconciliation Action Plan.  Prior to the flood Rous had engaged the services of M&K Solutions (Kylie Benge and Mitchell Johnson) to assist with planning, centre coordination and facilitation of engagement activities. M&K Solutions is a ‘Supply Nation’ registered business. Due to the closure of the centre following the flood, Rous repurposed the M&K contract to provide direct support and assistance to impacted Aboriginal organisations including Local Aboriginal Land Councils. As part of this effort, funding was secured for a collaboration between Jali, young people and community members with Desert Pea Media artists to create a song, music video and a short film that speaks to the proud history of Cabbo, the community’s connection to country and the challenges they face and their determination to rise above.

At the Ballina NAIDOC event attended by Rous staff, we were fortunate to watch the premiere of 'Wanna Go Home' by Cabbo Crew, and the documentary ‘Ngumbiny (Home)’. 

It was great that over 90% of Rous staff were able to attend, and we also recognise and thank the staff that were unable to attend as they were responding to operational needs (including water mains breaks and keeping the office open). We were welcomed to the event by Chris Binge (Jali Local Aboriginal Land Council CEO and member of our RAP Advisory Group) and it was also great to be joined by our Chair Cr Robert Mustow (Mayor Richmond Valley Council) and Deputy Chair Cr Sharon Cadwallader (Mayor Ballina Shire Council) for the day.  

Rous is proud of the support that we have provided to the community through our Reconciliation Action Plan and grateful for the invitation and opportunity to participate in the event with Jali and the Cabbo community.  

A special thank you to Noeline Smith and Robyn Waldron who made the day happen so seamlessly, and to Greg Telford for his leadership, and his powerful and important speech (and for cooking crocodile skewers and kangaroo burgers on the BBQ!). Thanks to Kylie for liaising with Jali to facilitate our involvement and also to other RAPAG members that were able to attend   Uncle Mick Roberts and Aunty Thelma James for working hard to share the bush tucker, to Adrian ‘Mook’ Harrington for help on the BBQ and to the ongoing support of Uncle Roy Gordon. 

To view photos, please visit our Facebook page.


Blue-green algae remains present at Emigrant Creek Dam

4 July 2023 (update from 5 June 2023)

Recent laboratory results for samples taken at Emigrant Creek Dam and multiple sites downstream of the dam indicate that concentrations of blue-green algae are fluctuating between Medium Alert and Low Alert concentrations.

Therefore, we advise the public to continue to avoid contact with water both upstream and downstream of Emigrant Creek Dam. Residents are also advised to avoid using water drawn from Emigrant Creek for agricultural and domestic purposes.

We will continue to closely monitor the water quality and work to resolve this issue as soon as possible. Updates will be provided as the situation evolves.


World Environment Day

13 June 2023

More than 120 school children took part in an activity-filled day at the Lismore Recycling and Recovery Centre as part of World Environment Day on 6 June. In line with the theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’, the children learned about the recycling process and how to minimise the use of single-use plastics.  

They also reviewed the catchment model trailer and walked through the adjoining Lismore Rainforest Botanic Gardens. The rainforest walk is a great way to connect how our lifestyle choices can have a direct impact on our environment.  

This year the students were asked to share their reflections from the day on a ‘graffiti-style’ blog. Check out some of their masterpieces here:  

You can also watch the video from Lismore City Council, here:  

The day was part of a collaboration between Rous with North East Waste, Dorroughby Environmental Education Centre and Friends of Lismore Rainforest.


Decreased blue-green algae alert status

5 June 2023 (update from 19 May 2023)

Recent laboratory testing indicates that the level of potentially toxic blue-green algae in Emigrant Creek Dam has decreased considerably relative to previous testing results. The water treatment plant is now in a Low Alert status.

The water treatment plant is NOT currently supplying drinking water to the public. Therefore, the residual potential risk posed by blue-green algae primarily affects nearby residents who are currently drawing water from upstream or downstream of Emigrant Creek Dam. Until upcoming algae testing results become available, it is advised that the public still exercise caution, particularly if drawing water for domestic or agricultural use.

We are conducting on-going additional algae testing and will continue to provide updates regarding the results of laboratory testing.


Rous supports DPI with biosecurity emergency response

25 May 2023

Several Rous County Council weed biosecurity officers have recently been recruited to help the Department of Primary Industries (DPI) protect the honeybee and prawn industries in northern NSW. The officers were tasked to assist DPI teams with a mission to eradicate an outbreak of white spot disease in prawn farms in the Clarence River and varroa mite near Taree. 

Rous’s field-capable staff were able to help thanks not only to their experience and expertise in managing biosecurity threats, but because they are Authorised Officers under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015, according to Doug Langdon, Weed Biosecurity Team Leader.

“DPI calls on us when needed as our officers are authorised under the Act to enter properties and manage surveillance and destruction operations. We’re always pleased to support DPI’s work and the inter-governmental agency collaboration is beneficial for building relationships and for upskilling Rous officers beyond weed biosecurity. Our officers are passionate about all areas of biosecurity and like to share their knowledge and skills in rapid response emergency situations like this one,” says Doug.  

DPI’s mission is to eradicate both biosecurity threats. White spot is a highly contagious viral infection that has been detected in black tiger prawns at several farms in the Clarence River. While it’s not harmful to human health, the disease is devastating to crustaceans. Varroa mites, also known as varroa destructors, are tiny red-brown external parasites of honeybees that pose a significant threat to commercial honeybee operations and agricultural industries that rely on bee pollination, such as berry farms. 

“With varroa mite, one of the actions taken has been placing pesticide-infused strips inside beehives. The bees rub against the strips and the mites die and fall off onto sticky mats placed at the bottom of the beehive trays. These are collected, bagged, labelled and sent away for testing. With white spot, the actions taken include chemical treatment to eliminate the disease. Our work has mostly been ensuring only registered vehicles and personnel are allowed onto each site, and assisting with water testing to ensure the correct chemical dosing and that levels are maintained within guidelines,” says Doug.

Five Rous officers have supported DPI: Doug Langdon, Alex Hew, Karolina Pemberton, Morgan Whitlen, and Peter Verrall. So long as the officers comply with Rous’s fatigue management policy, they are able to help DPI on rostered days off so as not to interfere with their weed biosecurity responsibilities.


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