Water quality fears behind restrictions

Water quality fears behind restrictions

5 January 2007

published by www.bordermail.com.au

Sediment and ash flowing into river

Albury, New South Wales, Australia — Emergency stage four water restrictions were introduced at Bright and Wandiligong yesterday to counter slugs of dirty water making their way down the Ovens River.

North East Water distribution manager Terry Wisener said storms in bushfire-affected catchments allowed ash and sediment to enter a low and slow flowing river, potentially compromising disinfection processes at both towns’ water plants.

Mr Wisener said until the dirty water passed the towns they would be reliant on stored water.

He said the situation would probably vary for the next few weeks with any rain likely to increase the chance of more dirty water flushing down the river.

“We’re asking residents to really cut back on consumption for a short period until the river runs clear again,” he said.

“As soon as the water quality improves to allow normal operation, stage four restrictions will be lifted and the towns will return to their current stage three water restrictions.

“But it might be a bit of an on-off situation for the next few weeks.”

He said they were also watching the situation at Porepunkah where the Buckland River had also seen changes in water quality, though supplies were currently adequate.

He said there was good news for the region with boil water notices lifted at Harrietville, Whitfield and Mt Beauty.

Emergency stage four water restrictions have also been lifted at Walwa which had been in place after a scheduled cut of releases from the Khancoban Pondage by Southern Hydro Limited.

Mr Wisener said the notices at Whitfield, Mt Beauty, Tawonga and Tawonga South were in place as a direct result of the bushfire threat.

“We put the notices in place as a precaution after we bypassed the treatment processes in these towns to allow people to defend their homes from the bushfire,” he said.

Mr Wisener said the Harrietville notice had been in place after E coli was detected.

“In all three towns we have the all-clear notice from the Department of Human Services to resume normal household use,” he said.

He said the Walwa restrictions had been a precautionary measure to guard against the possibility river levels would reduce and affect their pumping efficiency.

“The river didn’t drop anywhere near the level we thought it might and now we have the emergency pump in place,” he said.

Walwa residents will now return to stage one restrictions.

And Goulburn-Murray Water’s Pat Feehan has urged North East water users to watch for any changes in water quality in streams after storms or rain.

Mr Feehan said recent bushfires had taken away the protective vegetation from catchments.

He said there is concern large rainfall or a storm could trigger a large flow of poor quality water into several storages.

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