The Malpas Dam to Guyra pipeline was officially opened today by Armidale Regional Council mayor Simon Murray, Northern Tablelands MP Adam Marshall, and NSW deputy premier the Hon John Barilaro.
In fact, the $13 million, 18 km pipeline has been operational for nearly two months already, supplying Guyra's water needs in this devastating drought.
Contractors raced against time to finish the pipeline ahead of schedule. From mid-August, all Guyra's water supply has come through the pipeline from Malpas Dam, council engineer Manish Khadgi said. Guyra dam has only three weeks of water left, and has been on Level 5 water restrictions since June.
The pipeline's six pumps were, Cr Murray said, "the lifeblood of Guyra at the moment".
The 300 mL pipeline can pump from 12 to 60 litres a second, or up to 4.5 megalitres a day, based on demand. (Five pumps can be open at any time; the sixth is on standby.)
Guyra's reservoirs - on the same water system - have 21 days of water stored; council will keep them as a backup, Cr Murray said.
"It gives us that extra storage in the Guyra reservoirs in case something happens here," Cr Murray said.
From June, trucks carted water up from Armidale. As council engineers and contractors tested the pipeline and brought it online, the number of truck movements reduced, Cr Murray explained. Council knew it would take time to bring the pipeline to its full capacity. Last week, the engineers ran four pumps, without any problems; afterwards, there was no need for trucks.
Without the pipeline, Mr Marshall said, council and the state government would have had to cart water up to Guyra for at least a year.
The state government funded $12.85 million to the pipeline. Mr Marshall said he lobbied for the pipeline to give Guyra extra water capacity to cater for its growing population and support the expanding horticultural industry. (A couple of days after the funding for the pipeline was announced, the Costa Group revealed it would spend $60 million expanding its Guyra tomato farm.) Once the drought lifted, he predicted, Guyra's growth would be limitless; the future, he said, would be bright.
"This is the saviour of Guyra," Mr Marshall said. "It will save us now in drought, and it will make sure that when we're not in drought, Guyra has an abundant water supply.
"When conditions return to normal, this pipeline will allow Guyra to expand, continue to grow, and the horticultural industry to grow for more jobs to be created."
Pipeline from Puddledock
The state government would fund a $5.7 million pipeline from Puddledock Dam to Armidale, Mr Barilaro announced.
"It will be another resource to make sure we don't run out of water," the deputy premier said. "We're not going to sit idle when we know there are opportunities for investment."
"The diameter is far too small to supply water to Armidale," the mayor said. "In case the Malpas to Armidale pipeline fails, we can't get enough water to supply Armidale."
A much larger diameter pipeline will be a backup for Armidale should there be problems with the Malpas Dam to Armidale pipeline.
Council will have to go through a tender process to appoint an independent contractor and get the project done, Mr Marshall said.
Explorations and expansions
As it stands now, Mr Marshall said, Armidale and Guyra have more than 400 days of water supply left; Armidale is expected to run out of water in November next year. ('Day zero' was initially calculated to be at the end of October 2020, but the public have brought their general consumption down, pushing the date back.)
If necessary, the politician promised, he would ask state government to help fund infrastructure.
The state politicians also want to expand the Malpas Dam reservoir, raising the wall by 5 metres to double its capacity from 13,000 to 26,000 million litres.
It would, Mr Marshall said, be a truly regional storage water facility to supply Armidale and Guyra communities for decades to come, while Mr Barilaro expected this significant investment would make Armidale a regional centre on a par with some of the bigger cities in rural and regional NSW.
Mr Marshall was confident that council and state government working together would make sure Armidale and Guyra did not run out of water.
"But," he cautioned, "that does not remove the need for people to be very conscious and careful with their personal water usage at home."
He commended the community for making sacrifices to bring their water usage down. A few months ago, the average resident used 200 litres of water a day; now, they are down to 160 litres.
"They really stepped up the mark and answered the call," Mr Marshall said. "Unfortunately, they may have to for some time to come."
The state government was committed to making sure communities did not run out of water, Mr Barilaro said. It has already funded 111 projects for more than $680 million to secure the regional and rural water supply, and set aside $4.2 billion from the Snowy Hydro Scheme for water security.
"Long-term investment in infrastructure like new dams means we're future-proofing regional and rural NSW," the state leader said.