A Case For a Floating Solar Farm in Townsville’s Ross River Dam

A study on the viability of a Floating Solar Farm on the Ross Dam
A Floating Solar Farm In Japan – Photo by Charles Goodell

This is a guest post by Elly Hanrahan, an intern for the North Queensland Conservation Council. All views expressed are representative of Elly and not necessarily of the NQCC.

Townsville is currently experiencing its driest 11-month period since records began in 1841. With no action on water security from any level of government, desperate residents have formed the newly created Facebook group called ‘Water For Townsville Action Group’ in order to come up with a plan to secure Townsville’s water supply into the future.

At the moment, Townsville City Council is pumping 130 mega litres (ML) of water a day from the Burdekin and at a cost of roughly $27,000 per day. Even whilst pumping at full capacity, the dam level continues to drop with Townsville residents using roughly 1,700L per day- more than eight times the average usage of Brisbane residents. Evaporation also plays a large part in the shortage; given the extraordinary size of the shallow dam, Councillor Paul Jacob confirmed to the Townsville Bulletin that we lose between ‘20 and 40 mega litres per day due to evaporation alone’.

It is obvious that prolonged pumping is not a sustainable solution as it is both expensive and inefficient. Many solutions have been proposed such as duplicating the Haughton pipeline from the Burdekin, desalination systems, recycling plants and the proposed construction of the Hell’s Gate dam. One of the more creative solutions put forward on the Water Action Facebook group was a floating solar panel array on the Ross River Dam itself.

Continue reading “A Case For a Floating Solar Farm in Townsville’s Ross River Dam”

Part 4 NQCC Water Security Series – How will climate change affect Townsville’s water security?

This, the fourth post in our water security series, began as a response to the first of them, the Townsville Water Discussion Paper, and addresses an issue which none of the first three looked at. Parts 2 and 3 are here and hereThis is a guest post by Malcolm Tattersall. Once again, views expressed are the author’s, not those of NQCC. 

When I read Gail Hamilton’s post six weeks ago I agreed with nearly all of it but noticed a gap which was potentially important, i.e. the impact of climate change on our water security: the ‘Regional Water Supply Security Assessment’ from the Department of Water and Energy Supply (2014) (pdf here), upon which she relied for her ‘current situation’ section, didn’t consider climate change effects at all.

That seemed quite odd to me since we know that climate change is with us already on a global level – that most of the hottest years on record have occurred this century, that desertification is a key driver of conflicts in the Middle East, and that sea level rise is drowning low-lying islands and threatening major cities around the world. Some of us have also been feeling, on a much more local and personal level, that Townsville has been having weaker Wet seasons and hotter summers than ever before, and I happened to know, because I looked at it recently, that Bureau of Meteorology (BoM) data backs up our feelings.

Continue reading “Part 4 NQCC Water Security Series – How will climate change affect Townsville’s water security?”

Part 3 NQCC Water Security Series – Hell’s Gate Dam Forum

This is the third part in a four-part series that discusses issues about water in our region. Read part 1 here. Read part 2 here. Part four asks how climate change will affect our region’s water security.in a series that discusses issues about water in our region.

Coinciding with the NQCC AGM, we hosted a forum about the Hell’s Gate Dam feasibility study currently being conducted by Townsville Enterprise Ltd. NQCC was grateful to have the on-hand expertise of Patricia O’Callaghan (TEL CEO), David Lynch (principal economist for the study) and Jon Brodie (waterways expert). Here is what we were told about the dam, the study and the questions that came from the audience.

Continue reading “Part 3 NQCC Water Security Series – Hell’s Gate Dam Forum”

Part 2 NQCC Water Security Series – Water Wonderland or Pipe Dreams?

This is the second part in a four-part series that discusses issues about water in our region. Read part 1 here. Part three is a summary report of information shared by Townsville Enterprise Ltd. about the Hell’s Gate Dam feasibility study at our forum that was held on 10 October. Part four asks how climate change will affect our region’s water security.

Guest post written by Vern Veitch. All views expressed are the author’s and not the official opinion of NQCC.

With Townsville in a drought and under Level 3 water restrictions, the public are asking a lot of questions. Water falls out of the sky so why does it cost so much? Why don’t we just build another dam? If the dams are on higher ground, then why does water have to be pumped?

Mainstream media in Townsville certainly muddies the waters by publishing half-truths and not publishing all the really important bits of information. Through a concerted media effort, the public has been led to believe that Hell’s Gate is the answer to endless and cheap water. Continue reading “Part 2 NQCC Water Security Series – Water Wonderland or Pipe Dreams?”

Part 1 NQCC Water Security Series – Townsville Water Discussion Paper

This is the first part in a four-part series that discusses issues about water security in our region. Part two explores dam infrastructure options, and part three is a summary report of information shared by Townsville Enterprise Ltd. about the Hell’s Gate Dam feasibility study at our AGM and forum. Part four asks how climate change will affect our region’s water security.

Guest post written by Gail Hamilton. All views expressed are the author’s and not the official opinion of NQCC.

Townsville has an excellent water supply system, with highly treated and very safe water sourced from the Ross, Paluma and Burdekin dams.

While the Ross is our main supply dam, it is highly variable, with a limited catchment and low rainfall.  The Paluma Dam is situated in the wet tropics and is much more reliable, but can only supply 30 ML per day.  The Burdekin Dam is a huge system, with over 1 000 000 ML per year of water allocations, some of which is not committed. Townsville has 120 000 ML of allocation from the Burdekin.[1]

Current situation

In 2014, the Department of Energy and Water Supply undertook an assessment of Townsville’s water security.   It found that at current consumption levels of 60 000 ML per year, we would have to be on Level 4 water restriction on average once every 160 years. Continue reading “Part 1 NQCC Water Security Series – Townsville Water Discussion Paper”