PROGRESS: Plans in the pipeline depend on cost.
PROGRESS: Plans in the pipeline depend on cost.

Water security could cost Southern Downs ratepayers big

HIDDEN costs could halt the progression of a $90 million water security project to create a pipeline between Lake Wivenhoe and Leslie Dam, according to Southern Downs Mayor Vic Pennisi.

The Queensland Department of Natural Resources, Mines and Energy has completed the $1 million feasibility study into the drought contingency plan, and will soon seek to finalise the details with Southern Downs Regional Council and Toowoomba Regional Council.

A meeting is yet to be set between the councillors, however discussions are expected to take place toward the end of the month.

In previous meetings, the TRC and the SDRC compared the water security needs of their respective communities, revealing one non-negotiable: Price.

“If the pipeline is to go ahead it must be affordable to the ratepayers,” Cr Pennisi said.

“It could have financial implications … and until we do the number crunching, the unknown is what we are afraid of.”

There is some urgency to the meeting, according to SDRC acting CEO Jane Stroud.

“(The State Government) is still working towards a December 2022 completion date,” Ms Stroud said.

“So they don’t have a lot of time.”

The Mayor said the project did not give the region “new water for future growth”, but rather would deliver emergency water should the supply run out.

“There are other options out there,” Cr Pennisi said.

“If we can’t afford it, we need to look at those.”

These other options include the creation of a water grid from the Clarence River, or an Elbow Valley dam, each of which present their own challenges such as water allocation and cross-council communication.

In the meantime, the Queensland Government has committed up to $15 million to fund continued water carting for at least another seven months, according to a spokesman from DNRME.